When the news is making itself almost faster than it is possible to record it, it feels a little hard to reflect on what’s been so rapidly happening and may happen in the future.
It is but a matter of few days since the difficult decision to, for now, cease publishing a physical magazine for Big Issue vendors to sell was taken. The Covid 19 pandemic amongst many things brings with it fear, multiple anxieties and the threat of the loss of life for loved ones, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
Big Issue sellers, whilst not currently working on the street, remain 100% of our focus for their health and well-being. Their frequent personal contact with our frontline service teams is not currently physically possible; our offices are closed; the streets are getting emptier and the days are getting longer.
We are not seeing vendors and they are not seeing us. This does not mean that we have downed tools and stopped working. The opposite is true!
Our mission is now even more vital because everything we do is based on engagement with individuals, on their terms and in ways that they want, at the time that is right for them.
We are on the phone, texting, reaching out, assessing immediate need now and future need as anticipated. The confidence shared and solid relationships between us mean that we continue to answer questions, share advice, link in to support and meet needs even when we are apart.
We have been connecting services with vendors who have a history of rough sleeping with services that are placing them in the short term hotel accommodation that has emerged in the last 48 hours, we are connecting vendors to Shelterline for ‘free-phone’ advice on tenancies, mental health, domestic violence. Nothing is too much but all will not be possible immediately. Support for us here is crucial.
In practical terms we are have committed £25,000 of charitable funds to provide immediate assistance with food and essential goods. This money has been raised through our charity and is going entirely to the Big Issue vending population.
Now, more than ever, we are being tested. Thank you for your support. These are hard times. Please help where you can and my sincere thanks to everyone in whatever way who can help us achieve that and wish every reader health, peace and good fortune.
CEO, The Big Issue Foundation