Spare Change News Hits Hard Times

After recently losing a major donor, Spare Change News, a “street newspaper” sold by the homeless on the sidewalks of Cambridge, is facing severe financial difficulties, aggravated by the current economic crisis.

The newspaper, which was founded in 1992 and relies more on contributions than sales for funding, will barely “squeak through the holidays,” according to Operations Director Randal Eck.

“Because the economy is in turmoil, the individual donors may or may not be able to help as much as in the past,” he said.

Spare Change, a publication of the Homeless Empowerment Project designed to both provide the poor and homeless with jobs and educate the public about issues related to homelessness and poverty, has weathered financial crises in the past. But Eck said the recent loss of a major donor has him more worried than ever before.

Due to what he describes as a “change in and loss of personnel” that led to a recent merger with Boston-based Whats Up magazine–which became a supplement in Spare Change– Eck said that the paper has alienated a member of the Buffet family who previously donated $40,000 a year to the publication.

“When Daddy Warbucks decides he doesn’t love you anymore, you have to make some changes,” Eck said.

The loss of this gift will make Spare Change News much more dependent on their biannual appeal for contributions, published on the back page of the paper in November and March. Each appeal, which encourages readers to send donations to the paper in an enclosed envelope, typically generates $25,000 to $30,000 dollars.

“People will donate, but it will be a lot less,” Eck said. “If you just got laid off, would I really expect you to give me the $500 you gave last year? No.”

The full extent of the paper’s financial condition will not be known until after all of the donations solicited by this month’s appeal have been received.

According to Eck, however, it won’t take huge numbers to keep Spare Change afloat.

“If every Harvard student gave us $5, we’d be set,” he said.