By far our busiest day in the office, so most of our outreach today will be reactive. This means that rather than following up on non-urgent matters, we keep a close eye on our vendors, have a catch up with those who only visit our office once a week, and make ourselves available to speak to anyone having issues right away. This is when I get the chance to have a quick talk to Alex about the benefits of going to his therapy Tai Chi class, and encourage him to not miss it again.
In the afternoon, following a conversation we have had earlier this month with a council worker on alternative giving in the area, my colleague Emmie and I have a meeting with the local authorities regarding a begging hotspot. We decide on a strategic approach to the problem by offering those at risk legal ways of making an income – such as selling the magazine, along with the much-needed support from other local agencies. We will also work closely with the PCSO and the railway staff to ensure potential vendors will not be approached by drug dealers in the area. The more agencies we bring in on this, the more likely it is that we give these people a better chance.
Following conversations I had with some female Roma vendors during Health Week, I have been trying to put together more information about family planning. The challenge here is that a large amount of them do not speak English. I therefore take it upon myself to bring the information together in Romanian.
The leaflet that results will be circulated amongst our team and used nationally. Some of our projects and campaigns have very long-term goals. Maybe this generation of young Roma women will not make full use of their options when it comes to contraception, but we are raising awareness. This gives the next generation a chance to access more informed choices.
I meet up with Dion, one of our vendors who wants to find his way out of an alcohol addiction that was ruining his health. However, on the journey to rehabilitation, he finds that sleeping on the streets is a major push to consume. He has been in touch with agencies with regards to this, but it feels like the rate of progress punishes his decision more than it rewards it. It’s endlessly frustrating to see someone who wants the change, but hasn’t got access to the resources he needs. He is not a unique case, and problems can range from addiction to class A drugs, to a first step on the journey to managing mental illness. Finding the right environment where someone like Dion can talk openly and gain the confidence and support he needs is where our job comes into play. By facilitating the process we bring new hope to the lives of those who struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I head for Liverpool Street where I intend to catch up with anyone who will be buying their magazines for a couple of hours. Whilst there I’m happy to find out that Alex has actually attended his Tai-Chi class, a major step forwards to engaging with society, and good therapy for his illness. He is very excited about his next one, and I’m happy to hear he took my advice on-board. We also talk about the possibility of having him on a corporate placement with a law firm, which I think would suit him great. Whilst on the subject, Vince approaches me to enquire about a pitch in Liverpool Street train station – again an opportunity I think would suit him very well. I also offer another one of our vendors help through the Vendor Support Fund for a phone, but this remains to be discussed. I will speak to my colleague Lauren as soon as I get back to the office about all the placement interests I’ve just had. They are all strong candidates so this is a great opportunity for them to gain those vital skills to build up employability.
It’s been a busy week and I’m very much looking forward to the next edition of the magazine. I have a quick lunch meeting with one of my fundraising colleagues, discussing an upcoming event – The Big Night Walk. It sounds great and it will be my first time going. Best part about it? The public is encouraged to attend and fundraise, so it brings together our supporters and our vendors, putting names to faces and giving everyone a clearer picture of what The Big Issue family is all about.
In the afternoon I make sure I’ve seen everyone and kept good records of anything that may have changed from the previous week. We always try to tailor our support to the needs of those we work with, so accurate record keeping is a must. Next week we have a national service brokers’ meeting. It will be good to exchange tips, tricks, and operational hacks. Their expertise is invaluable so the meeting should be a great opportunity for our team to see different angles and opinions. It all looks very positive, and every small step we make takes us closer to fulfilling our mission. After all, sometimes all one needs is a hand up at the right time.
*Names and details have been altered in the interest of maintaining the privacy of those involved.
Photography by Magnus Arrevad