The Big Issue Foundation
222 Seven Sisters Road
Matt Morley, Big Issue Foundation Service Broker, talks about life in our London office and on the streets.
The vendor area of the London office is always buzzing with activity. Hundreds of vendors are active in London at any one time and delivery of Foundation services is focused to provide as much support as possible to as many vendors as possible.
Everyday anywhere from 5 to 10 people walk through the doors and ask to be “badged up”. Their circumstances range from absolute desperation and personal crisis to those trying to avert the threat of becoming homeless.
Each set of circumstances that bring an individual to us are unique and the advice and information we aim to give is tailored to their needs. This can include sign posting vendors to services such as day centres, advice services relevant to them, medical services available to homeless people, language classes or soup runs!
Magazines are sold to vendors from our office in Vauxhall and at eight other distribution points around central London. Requests for help and information are received directly from vendors, through our distribution points and through our team of street volunteers. We also receive calls from members of the public who engage with our vendors on the street.
Earning money from selling the magazine empowers our vendors to make choices. We work with vendors to try and increase the money they earn and therefore increase the number of choices they can make. We try to help them make the choices that are right for them.
When vendors become more established we also try to work with them to consider ways to move on from selling the magazine by considering training courses or engaging with charities such as Crisis Skylight who work with people who have experienced homelessness to find full time employment.
To give a flavour of the type of work we do I kept a diary last Tuesday..
“This morning I didn’t go straight to the office but first called at Covent Garden. I met a vendor who has been selling the magazine for a number of years. He approached me about a year ago with his plans to start a stall in Covent Garden market. Whilst the timing wasn’t quite right for him then due to his personal circumstances he has demonstrated he is serious about it and has researched his supply and has been offered a stall on a trial basis. After showing me where his stall would be located we completed an application for a grant from the Big Issue Foundation’s vendor support fund to help him with the capital he needs to get started.
On arriving at the office a female vendor who had only just been badged up was waiting to see me. She was very upset and after a long chat in a private area she told me she had walked out of her home due to an abusive partner who she was terrified of. After ringing the domestic violence helpline we obtained details of a local refuge for women fleeing violence.
After lunch a young man called in to see me who had recently become street homeless after spending some months on a friend’s sofa. He had been selling for just over a week and is struggling with a drink problem. I took him through the pathways that might apply to him and we agreed that working with a charity called Hope Worldwide could help. They offer a call back facility with details of an appointment. As he had no phone I agreed to find him on his pitch with details of when they can see him.
Before going home, I completed the vendor support fund application for the vendor who wants to start a market stall and submitted it for approval…”
If you are interested in supporting our work in this office or any of our other offices by volunteering please click here