In Dorset & Hampshire we have a part-time mobile Service Broker, Stephen Fatuga, to offer an innovative way of taking services out to vendors selling the magazine. Stephen works in partnership with agencies distributing the magazine while supporting existing and new vendors. His role complements the service in Bournemouth, led by Simon, supporting over 60 vendors.
Monday is always one of our busiest days. It’s one of the key days to engage with vendors as they visit the office to purchase fresh copies of the new magazine. Teamwork is key. We spend the early part of the morning booking pitches, selling magazines, refreshing badges and, of course, supporting vendors with any concerns that arise. Today we’re helping a vendor obtain ID and supporting him to maintain his temporary accommodation tenancy. We also introduced a new ‘Quote of the Week’ noticeboard, where we display topics currently in the news. We use it to create conversation, to keep vendors informed of current affairs and to raise aspirations and foster an increased sense of wellbeing. Some of the vendors today discuss attending the monthly vendor meeting, which takes place in the afternoon. Mid-morning, one of the team travels to Weymouth to catch up with some of the new vendors in the area. While in Weymouth they visit the Bus Shelter project, The Lantern and spend time in the town centre talking to current and potential vendors. The afternoon is an excellent opportunity for our volunteer Jane to spend time in the town centre, listening to vendors’ needs and encouraging them to achieve the goals they’ve set themselves in their action plans. Later, a local Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) brings to the office a young lady who is currently sleeping rough. We induct her and complete an assessment. This assessment enables our team to understand her priority needs and support her accordingly. Together, we identify that she needs to be referred to the Rough Sleeper team and that she needs our support with sourcing clothes donations.
Our social media volunteer Pamela is in the office today, preparing for a day of filming while on outreach. The vendors are excited about the opportunity to promote their hard work after weeks of planning this project. Later in the morning we also have a team meeting. Our meetings create a space within which we can get feedback from vendors, share recent successes and plan for improvement and development. Later today we will support a vendor to attend a drop-in at the council regarding housing. This is an important step as it will support them to stop rough sleeping. We’re also helping a vendor to complete a Vendor Support Fund (VSF) application to help purchase a rail card to enable them to attend more support meetings. Our VSF grants are invaluable as they support vendors to make purchases essential to their journey away from poverty and homelessness, create an incentive to increase sales, and provide an opportunity to develop saving and budgeting skills.
Today we attend a monthly multi-agency meeting at Bournemouth Council. Alongside other services, this meeting focuses on 10 core rough sleeps in the Bournemouth area to discuss ways in which we can engage and support them to access housing support. One individual we work with was discussed and it was agreed that he should be a high priority to be provided with shelter. This proved to be a successful meeting where the information provided supported the work we are already completing. Back in the office another of our volunteers, Cat, is supporting vendors to complete financial services forms. We utilise this opportunity to refer vendors to specialist services that can help them further. It’s midday and we have a known rough sleeper come into the office today to surrender her street hamster, Smudge. Luckily, we work with a fantastic animal charity that is able to arrange taking care of the hamster while finding it a new forever home. This is an emotional time for the vendor so we ensure they have time to say their goodbyes. In the late afternoon there’s a positive atmosphere among the vendors as they prepare to visit the Odeon cinema to watch Skid Row Marathon, a film that The Big Issue is part of. We were very lucky to be given 10 free tickets by the cinema manager. For many vendors, this will be the first time in many years that they’ve watched a film at the cinema. We will also trial a new pitch there this evening.
One of the team takes vendor Bill to Bournemouth University to carry out an all-day humanisation workshop for second year nursing students. Today marks an exciting time for Bill; this will be the last time he gives a talk at the university as Bill is now moving into full-time employment. We are all delighted for Bill and support him to obtain a passport – a required piece of ID essential for him to begin his new role. These events are always really successful. They provide an opportunity to develop awareness-raising around homelessness, on both a local and national level.
Friday morning is busy. We host the community mental health nurse drop-in, which is invaluable and works really well as a way for vendors to be introduced to specialist services. We also support a vendor to attend a podiatrist appointment. For over two years they have been too anxious to seek help. The relief on their face following the appointment is hugely rewarding. Back at the office, the Lead Liaison PCSO offers support to vendors should they have any concerns. Lunchtime on a Friday has become a popular event. Each week, we take a group of vendors to the BH1 project for a lovely lunch. This provides an excellent opportunity to network and find out about the support available for local vendors. Some vendors are now beginning to attend BH1 for guitar lessons and to use their shower and washing machine facilities. We also go over to the Isle of Wight to support a vendor who has become homeless again. It is always heart-warming to be able to see the vendor in an area in which they obviously feel safe and happy, and to witness their popularity with customers on their pitch. The afternoon ends with a firm action plan in place and a confidence that their situation can improve.