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Florida homeless paper's editor dead

May 10 2012
Suicide of Tampa Epoch’s founder leaves paper’s future in doubt

 

A man who created a newspaper to be sold by homeless and destitute people to protect them from harsh new laws against begging has committed suicide, leaving the future of the paper in doubt.

Bill Sharpe, of Tampa, Florida, established the Tampa Epoch at the end of 2011 after the city made begging in the street a crime six days a week, permitting people to beg only on a Sunday.

But the law did not forbid newspaper sales in the street - so Sharpe created the monthly publication which vendors could buy for 25 cents each and sell for a dollar, keeping 75 cents for each copy sold.

The paper succeeded in giving Tampa’s homeless people a way to make a small income, and had gathered 300 vendors in only four months of publishing. One vendor, Atiya Brown, 21, said she made about 35 dollars for about two hours of selling the paper.

“There’s a lot of homeless people out there that need to be heard,” she said. “This is the only way that we can survive.” There was uncertainty about the future of the paper following the death of Sharpe, 59, who had put his savings into establishing it.

However, Steven Sapp, who worked with Sharpe on the Epoch, said: “Not one single vendor needs to worry about the future of Tampa Epoch. Our staff and supporters don’t want to see it die.”

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