Monday morning is universally the busiest morning at every Big Issue office in the country and Bath is no exception! I meet our vendors at Green Park station and it’s a great time to catch up on how everyone’s weekend went and if there were any problems as we wait for the magazine delivery. Our vendor Harry has money he wants to put in the Vendor Savers Scheme -he’s saving towards a passport at the moment.
After everyone has bought their magazines and confirmed the pitches where they will be selling for the week, I’m straight on the train to Warminster. Here I deliver magazines to vendors in this area. We always aim to find pitches that are in suitable locations for vendors. Sometimes that means we bring the magazines to them so they do not have the additional cost of a train fare to a central office every week. Whilst in Warminster, I catch up with a vendor who wants to know more about his rights as he is living in his campervan near the town. We head over to the Citizen’s Advice Drop in together to get the most up to date advice and information.
Back in the office in Bath I’ve got a meeting with the Metro Bank’s local director to discuss what vendors would need to apply for a standard account. Many people on the streets don’t have a simple bank account and we want to support as many people towards financial independence and managing their own money as possible.
This week is a special week because on Thursday we have the opening of our new exhibition about the working lives of vendors in Bath at the Museum of Bath at Work. We were so pleased that vendor’s work could be showcased in a space that holds the last 2,000 years of labour around Bath. I check in with the museum briefly to make sure all the right pictures are going up. I also recruited the help of a volunteer Julia, who recorded audio interviews with vendors from our area and they all sound great, making a fantastic addition to the exhibition.
From there it’s straight off to an outreach meeting as Harry, who I met during magazine delivery on Monday, let me know he would like to catch up during the week. Harry has now saved enough money to contribute towards his Vendor Support Fund application for a new passport. This is so important as often when applying for a bank account, support services or even a job, photo ID is often required. We head out to get his passport application sent off at the Post Office. It’s a long wait but we’ve finally got it sent off and in a few weeks, he’ll have his first ever passport.
This morning I’m doing my first outreach with the local hostel’s new mental health worker. Along with a couple of vendors, I make my way round to the hostel to welcome them. It’s great to get our relationship off to a good start so we can hit the ground running on supporting both existing and potential new vendors. Joint outreaches are a really great time to make vendors aware of other services available in the area.
I get back to the office and meet with our vendor Camilla who is considering moving on and wants to know what jobs are out there. Most job vacancies are online now and Camilla doesn’t have access to the internet. We have a look on the computer in the office to see what jobs are available. She seems interested in cleaning roles so we have a look at the adverts to see what she needs to apply.
Thursday morning I catch up with some much-needed admin before heading out on a late morning outreach with a member of Developing Health and Independence engagement team. They run services to help disadvantaged people and those living on the margins of society to turn their lives around. We have a long-standing relationship with them that ensures we can keep vendors up to date with the health and substance abuse support available to them in their area.
This evening we’ve got the opening of our exhibit showcasing vendors’ working lives. Myself and our volunteers, Imogen and Ceci, head up to the museum to set up and I wait for our vendor William who has a passion for history and is eager to help us open the event and explain more about how he works. Despite the very heavy downpour this evening we get a great turn out and even the Mayor buys a magazine off William! The exhibit is at the Museum of Bath at Work on Julian Rd, Bath and is now open till September 1st!
It’s ‘Wiltshire Friday’ and I’m off to check in with all our vendors in West and North Wiltshire. It is a long journey involving multiple buses but it is important that we connect face to face with as many vendors as possible. Many vendors do not have a good support system in place and it’s important that they know there is someone in their corner, someone who is there to help them whether that’s connecting them with local services or just providing a cuppa and a friendly ear. Whether vendors decide to engage with our services or not, it is important that they know we see them, and they matter. We are there for them when they are ready to take the next step on their pathway to a better future.