By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Spare Change News co-founder James Shearer dies at 64

Hawker selling Spare Change News. Photo (cc) 2011 by Bogdan Seredyak.

James Shearer, who co-founded Spare Change News some 30 years ago, has died at the age of 64. The paper is sold by homeless people on the streets of Boston, and was begun with the idea that it would provide them an alternative to panhandling. Bryan Marquard has written a lovely obituary of Mr. Shearer for The Boston Globe. His public Facebook feed is filled with tributes as well.

Samuel Scott, who was the editor and executive director of Spare Change News from 2004-’07, sent along the following statement:

James co-founded a newspaper that has always done two amazing things over the decades: It brings attention to homelessness and other social justice issues, and it gives homeless people bona fide jobs selling the paper on the street so they can earn a respectable living just like anyone else with a job. Countless homeless and other marginalized people have been helped by the newspaper that he helped to found over the years, and I hope that everyone in the Boston area is still buying Spare Change to this day.

It’s easy to pass by someone selling Spare Change News, and its visibility decreased during the COVID years. Vendors often sold the paper outside T stations, and with many people now working hybrid schedules, there aren’t as many opportunities to buy it. The next time you see someone hawking Spare Change, please stop for a moment and pay for a copy.

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  1. Savina Martin: Clergy Council of the National Union of the Homeless. Sadly would like to offer our deepest condolences on the loss of James. He was very active in the National Union of the Homeless. He was a teacher, a leader and a fighter for the Poor. Presente! James.

  2. When I met James in 1993 I was a frightened 26 year old girl getting out of an abusive relationship. I was fighting for custody of my kids and had very low self=esteem. He told me not to worry because everything would be alright. Spare Change News would help me however I needed it. He gave me the help I needed and built up my confidence. He helped me to come out of my shell and do and be more than I was the day before. Thank you James.

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