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Boston, New York, San Francisco, Albuquerque, N.M., even Sydney, Australia. Newspapers written by or for homeless people are on the streets in urban areas worldwide.

Hutchinson Persons, editor-in-chief of New York's Street News, claims to have started the trend when he founded his paper in 1989. "A lot of people have used the name Street News without permission," he says.

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Newspapers tend to come and go in this hard-to-track category. They often cannot endure the financial and personnel challenges long term.

"It's not easy to keep one open," Mr. Persons says. "It takes a lot of constant attention."

The papers vary widely in philosophy and approach. Like the mainstream press, they quickly get pegged as either conservative or liberal.

Some are given away and aimed at an audience of homeless people, others are sold by homeless vendors to the general public.

Boston's newest homeless paper, Spare Change, is sold by homeless vendors. It's intended to educate the public and employ the homeless.

On the other hand, Homeless Times, a monthly Boston paper started last fall, is free and has a different mission.

"The people that are selling Spare Change are trying to make money. There's nothing wrong with that. But we're just trying to let homeless people know everything that's going on," says Jack McCambridge, director of the Homeless Civil Rights Project, which sponsors Homeless Times.

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Many of the papers sell swiftly when they first appear on subways or street corners. But the novelty often fades if readers don't find the product compelling.

"After a little while, it becomes more and more like charity," says Ted Houghton of the New York Coalition for the Homeless.

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