Big Issue vendors work in the heart of our communities, buying their magazines with their own cash, selling them at their own profit or loss, simple!
Technically a vendor is a newsagent without a shop. Yes, they will have issues, worries and concerns, as do we all, but they are in the business of changing their lives through work; each sale is one more step towards future potential and personal change.
When a vendor holds up a copy of this week’s Big Issue the front cover is far more than the piece of A4 paper that it is; it is a mirror that reflects to individuals the views they hold about homeless people. It may stir feelings of sympathy, concern and the desire to engage but all too frequently it can engender an emotional reaction, negative judgement and a suspicion that this newsagent is in some way the architect of their own decline, worthy of little but disdain and dismissal. Some potential customers will even share these feelings with their seller or simply avert their eyes or pretend to make a phone call.
As featured Big Issue vendor Michael says in our latest newsletter “I was so nervous at first. People could tell because they were coming up to me and asking why.” Being a newsagent without a shop is one of the toughest jobs in the country.
So, when you look in the mirror what do you see? Our newsletter is not about ‘homeless people’, it is about ‘people’. It reflects the energy and endeavours of Big Issue vendors, the impressive commitment of our supporters and the vital work and achievements that has been made possible through this support for our charity by you, our valued donors and Big Issue believers.
We need to dispel our own myths and fears to help us understand that real change is possible. So often I hear people say that we are all just a few payslips away from homelessness. This is said with all good intent, that homelessness is nearer than we think and that any of us are closer to the streets than we realise and that we should therefore think and behave differently.
Recent research revealed that social mobility has not changed in over 9 years. There are simply not enough affordable homes in existence or being built, welfare policy is punitive and ‘housing benefit’, traditionally playing an important role in preventing homelessness, no longer covers the cost of renting. The meaningful lack of preventative legislation and policy are the key drivers of homelessness and these drivers disproportionately impact the poorest members of our society.
We can all campaign, lobby and vote for change. We should do that with the hope that we can effect democratic systemic change for the better, bring about an end to austerity and sew the seeds for future prosperity.
Our recent newsletter is a testament to how we can and do create change every day. It shows the positive difference that buying The Big Issue can make for your local newsagent without a shop. It demonstrates the impact of the work of our front-line teams and, critically, the diversity of ways that people can and do support the fundraising efforts.
This is activism at a different level altogether! We have more good work to be done, journeys undertaken and new stories to be written. Please do support us in the certainty that we can continue to make this all happen.
Thank you for being a change maker, for buying The Big Issue magazine and for supporting our charitable work.