2012 E News CEO Column

The Big Issue’s 21st Birthday is fast approaching. Our movement was born at a time of great hardship and recession. Our mission over the last 21 years has been to offer people who are homeless a unique opportunity to help themselves, an opportunity to embark on their own personal journey away from homelessness.

Big Issue vendors work in the heart of our communities up and down the country. The journey begins when someone chooses to invest a little of their cash and starts to buy and sell the magazine. It is often true that people can ‘earn’ more cash through begging. The decision to start a small business and work you way out of your situation, no matter how far you have fallen, is an incredible step for anyone to take.

We have always believed that a person needs to be engaged in their own changes; engaged and actively making choices about the future and the things that they would like to achieve. 21 years after the formation of the business we have changed homelessness. The spirit of self-help has been ingrained in
society. Yet our work is not done.

At the Big Issue Foundation our small service team works tirelessly to connect vendors to the opportunities and support that they choose in their communities. Our people work closely with vendors, seeking always to make a difference where it really counts.

We are very aware that we live in extremely challenging times. The recession is deepening and the demand for our support has never been greater. Entirely reliant on the generosity of our supporters, we have helped thousands of people over the years and will need to help thousands more as we move forward.

Our front line is a thin line and just under 100 individuals a week approach us at a time of utter crisis, a huge challenge for a small organisation such as ourselves.

In practical terms, the help that we provide is simple. The Big Issue gets people working and The Big Issue Foundation deals with the things that arise as a result. We believe that people who are homeless have the same right of access to society as the rest of us. We are proud to have helped 1000’s of people in their efforts to move on; be that by accessing accommodation, mainstream healthcare or financial support. We get personal identification returned, bank accounts opened and family networks re-established.

I am often asked what happens to people after they cease selling the magazine. The honest answer is that we frequently do not know. We have limited resources and do all we can to ensure that we are helping vendors when they are with us. We find that some people are keen to put their ‘bad times’ behind them but we do occasionally hear from people…

“This is just a thank you to the Big Issue for allowing me to sell the mag over a number of years up till 2009. This money I made from selling the mag was what kept me alive on many occasions. I have now come through the hard times and now have a nice house wife and baby on the way. I also
now run my own shop in Shropshire.

Thanks to everyone at the Big issue and keep up the good work.”

We know that a little help can go a long way if you work smart. Our vendors know that taking part in something is being part of something. We have some amazing events coming up and really hope that you will be persuaded to join us in our efforts to raise funds and reach out to many more people in these hard times.

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