Read all about our latest Summer news around the country...a card reader pilot, CV support, an MP selling the Big Issue, the media spotlight, and the death of a much-loved vendor.
We arranged a meeting with Options, a local support service for adults with learning difficulties, to discuss ways to support a vendor with complex needs. We were then able to establish shared lines of communication with Options, Second Step and NHS caseworkers, allowing us all to update and complement each others’ work. Strengthening links with other agencies is central to our work as it enables us to provide joined-up and personalised support for Big Issue vendors. We also made a successful referral to Bristol’s Youth Education Service for adult literacy classes, a gigantic step for the vendor at the age of 53. We saw a brief burst of media attention when vendor Robin (pictured) attracted interest in his card reader and the extra sales it generated for him. Robin completed numerous TV and radio interviews with aplomb; other vendors became interested too and we are about to begin trialling contactless payments on a wider basis. We’ve been pleased to develop our friendship with the University of Bath, which CEO Stephen Robertson visited for a talk on homelessness. A partnership with TravelWest has enabled us to supply vendors with free transport to work and training. Big Issue vendors are doing very well in Wiltshire, especially in Warminster, where vendor Paul has started occasional gardening work for residents, as well as participating in town meetings.
Dorset & Hampshire
As always, it’s been a busy time in Dorset and Hampshire. We’ve had some fabulous successes recently, including three vendors moving into full-time employment. For one vendor, access to employment only came after they had successfully passed a training course. We’ve also had some vendors move into accommodation. Their self-help ethos has inspired everyone! We previously told you about several vendors attending employment-related training provided by Saints Foundation. We are so proud to report that some of those vendors have now secured work at Southampton Football Club. Another star vendor that we are very proud of is Jacob. He has been a great advocate, introducing new vendors and increasing his social networks. We have been strengthening our outreach and are working with some new services. We also continued to attend multi-agency meetings to discuss and support core rough sleepers. This helped us recently when we needed to connect a homeless young adult and the rough sleepers team, which they had previously struggled to engage with. Going forward we plan to increase our focus on new vendors using some exciting initiatives to maintain their levels of motivation and to drive forward a pathway for their future.
Nottingham has very sadly lost one of its most popular vendors, Dave Hale, who passed away in April. His death has been very difficult for vendors, staff and his many friends and customers. His memorial service was attended by 160 pe ople, which was extremely touching and a fitting tribute to a much-loved man. Vendor Paul Snape has become the first vendor in the region to use a card reader. He has had a really positive response and we look forward to trying to extend this opportunity to other vendors. We’ve continued to be involved in several multi-agency meetings and events, including work with local banks to improve services offered to vendors. We’ve also been involved with a health focused event to raise awareness of tuberculosis and how to access support. We are continuing to build and explore partnerships with Aggregate Industries. They have been extremely positive and innovative in providing a space for a vendor to sell at their Coalville office. We are hoping to support a vendor to be part of this exciting venture in the near future. Vets in the Community have kindly continued to provide a fortnightly clinic at the office, which is extremely well attended and an incredible service.
There’s been lots going on in Birmingham and across the West Midlands. When a space on our Mondelez corporate pitch became available, we knew that it made sense to offer it to a vendor who had worked incredibly hard over a sustained period, selling The Big Issue alongside volunteering with a local agency to develop their employability skills. She jumped at the chance of a corporate pitch and has continued to attend on a weekly basis, selling the magazine in the foyer to staff and visitors from all over the world. Thank you Mondelez for this incredible opportunity! Jess Phillips, MP for for Yardley, visited the office and took part in a 'vendor experience'. Like every new vendor, Jess took part in an initial assessment, after which she was issued with a badge and a red tabard. One of our current vendors then very kindly took her under their wing and together they pounded the streets of Birmingham in an attempt to sell Big Issue magazines to the public. After an hour, Jess had managed to sell two magazines and admitted to feeling somewhat invisible. This is a feeling that Big Issue vendors can experience on a daily basis, and it was interesting hearing vendors’ experiences being echoed by someone in the public eye. In January one of our most well-known vendors, Bubble, was sadly involved in a car accident. He spent 92 days in hospital during which he went into a coma and had to have emergency surgery as well as dialysis and physiotherapy. We have had so many members of the public get in touch with us to send their best wishes, and he’s also been featured on the front page of the Birmingham Mail. We are happy to report that he is on the mend and is looking forward to returning to vending!
Our small team in Oxford has fostered a tight-knit connection with a core group of local vendors. This has enabled them to develop strong, trusting relationships and work together to address the support needs and further the aspirations of these vendors. Our approach is consistently holistic, person-centred and flexible. Over the last few months we have enabled vendors Alan, Dave, Derek and Steve to secure charity funding from Homes4allOxfordshire, a local grassroots organisation, providing basic mobile phones. Mobiles are such a valuable communication tool for vendors, making it much easier for them to engage with support services and their social networks, and helping them to remember key appointments. We have also supported others to obtain ID, acquire voluntary work experience, and access mental health support with the Elmore Team, an independent charity that works in Oxford to offer support to people with complex needs. On a strategic level, we have participated in a number of multi-agency meetings hosted by Crisis Skylight Centre in Oxford. These have been organised to explore new and creative ways of collaborative working to address homelessness by making the best use of existing knowledge and resources, in the wake of significant cuts to public funding.
We’ve been shortlisting 10 vendors who are ready to participate in a card-reader pilot with iZettle. A vendor keen to get his fruit and veg stall off the ground was connected with a business initiative that offers support for new businesses as well as CV support to access employment. Another employment ready vendor had a successful interview and trial day with Change Please, the mobile coffee van social enterprise. He is currently waiting to hear if he will be offered more days. We’ve been thrilled to welcome new Service Broker Christy to the team, who will be supporting vendors to identify their needs and barriers and connect them with vital support services. And we’ve continued our fight to end homelessness by working as part of a consortium of organisations led by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to help people sleeping rough off the streets.