By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – With a stack of papers under his arm and the latest edition of the Alberta Street News proudly displayed in his hand, John Zapantis stands on the corner of 100 Avenue and 100 Street in Morinville plying his trade like newspaper sellers did in years gone by. But Zapantis is no mere street corner paper vendor. He is also a writer, photographer and media spokesperson for the publication.
The Alberta Street News evolved out of the Edmonton Street News, a publication began in the fall of 2003. Though the publication has taken over a similar publication out of Calgary and changed its name in January of this year, the mission has remained the same.
“We empower people on the margins such as disability or AISH to write about their personal issues while supplementing their marginalized incomes,” Zapantis explained. “That’s what we are empowered to do – write about our personal issues. There’s people on AISH. There’s people on the margins of welfare. People with addiction issues, mental abuse; you name it, we write about it.”
Zapantis said the publication has as many as 16 regular contributors from Edmonton, Calgary and other communities in the province.
Each monthly edition has a print run of 3,000 copies, distributed mainly in Calgary and Edmonton through 25 street vendors. However, the writer has kick started an initiative to branch the publication out to other communities. After being given what he sees as a cold shoulder by St. Albert Council, he applied for and was granted a business license to do business in Morinville. Alberta Street News will be sold Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the corner of 100 Avenue and 100 Street.
It is but one part of his work for the publication. As one of the contributors, Zapantis writes on relevant social issues of concern to people living on the margins as well as other subjects he feels his readers would like to read about.
It is not his first gig as a writer, having written for publications including The Edmonton Senior, Our Voice, Living Light News and View Weekly.
Prior to picking up keyboard and camera lens, Zapantis said he had a flyer distribution business for a number of years, and was even homeless for a period of four years as he lived in a number of shelters in a number of cities while looking for casual labour positions. “I gradually got back on my feet with the support of people in the community and my parents, and now I’m back in the medium of writing,” he said.
The writer said he got into writing after his interest was rekindled as an adult after recounting in print a story of how he intervened when a woman was being harassed as she was making her way to the bus. “My writing interests were rekindled, and about eight months after that incident, I discovered Spare Change on the streets of Edmonton,” Zapantis said of a similar publication to the one he currently writes for. “An old friend of mine, who I’ve known for some time, got me involved in the process, and the writer’s hook has never left me since that time. That’s why I’m here to involve everyone in the process, and that’s why I’m here to make the corner of 100 Street and 100 Avenue my home to promote this cause while involving everyone in the process.”
Zapantis said the publication is something for everyone and not merely designed for street people. There is no set price for the publication; however, vendors pay .50 per copy for their stock.