Bill’s Story

Tuesday, 1st May 2018

We are very happy to announce that Bournemouth vendor Bill is moving on to a new career as a brewery tour guide at Southbourne Ales!

A former British Army medic, Bill spent several months living in a cave and then walking along the coast with his dog Chloe before becoming part of the Big Issue family. 

"For four years I have been working with The Big Issue speaking to students at Bournemouth University about my story to tell them a bit more about homelessness. I’ve also given speeches ahead of the Big Issue Foundation’s Night Walk and Sleep Out events. The feedback we get is terrific as I always try to give plenty of information without snowing the students under, and they tend to engage with it and have plenty of questions.

It has certainly been excellent preparation for the job at Southbourne Ales, which I started on Good Friday, and has been going really well. I’ve always been into real ale when I used to run a pub on the Isle of Grain in Kent – we had six different beers on the bar over 18 months and I only repeated one due to customer demand. I’ll be on my pitch until April 24 while giving tours Wednesday to Sunday so it is a seven-day working week at the moment. I’ve brought leaflets from Southbourne to my pitch so hopefully I’ll see a few of my regulars down there for a tour.

My customers have been really supportive and I’ve already had 12 good luck cards. I want to take this opportunity to thank them and The Big Issue for all the support over the past six years – I don’t think I could have done this without them."

Kirsten Thomson, Big Issue team leader for Bournemouth, said: “We are extremely proud of Bill who has gained employment as the Brewery Tour Guide at Southbourne Ales. He has been such an active member of our Big Issue community, helping us raise awareness in the local area and supporting us with a variety of fundraising activities.

“He has participated in many talks and events to spread the word about The Big Issue and Big Issue Foundation. We will miss Bill but wish him all the best with in his next endeavour.” “I want to express my gratitude to 

The Big Issue and the team here – it’s a good group and they have really taken me to their hearts. I’m hoping this <new> job will see me through to retirement.”

Southbourne Ales owner Jennifer Tingay has been suitably impressed with his efforts so far. She told The Big Issue: “I have got to know him and heard a bit of his background and hiring him just seemed to be the perfect thing for both him and us. He’s a confident public speaker, he’s knowledgeable about the industry and he’s got a really positive outlook so it is great to be able to give him this opportunity to progress.”

Good luck to Bill and Chloe from everyone at The Big Issue Foundation!


TUESDAY, 14TH FEBRUARY 2017

Back in late 2015, Bill Webb, a well known vendor in Bournemouth, shared his story. A lot has happened for Bill over the last year and below we reflect on his journey, which he will be speaking about at The Big London Night Walk on Friday 3rd March 2017. 

Last year, Bill was evicted from his home in Boscombe as the owners decided to sell the property. Bill managed to find another flat to live in, but circumstances meant that Bill had to also leave this property and live in his tent for two months.

Bill was supported by The Big Issue Foundation to find a safe home and he has now secured a council flat for him and his dog Chloe. It is a local authority flat with a lifetime tenancy at a rent he can afford. He will be able to access the Vendor Support Fund to help him buy essentials for his new home thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

I found myself back in my tent last August feeling pretty down. However I was persuaded by the team in Bournemouth to engage with Street Services, and by October they found me a place in supported accommodation which saw me indoors for Christmas. I was advanced on the housing list due to the supported accommodation losing its funding and was very lucky to be offered the first place I saw. The flat had no furniture but thanks to The Big Issue Foundation it’s vendor support fund and also Homes for Heroes (which I was put in touch with by The Big Issue Foundation). Chloe my dog and I now have a fully furnished and comfortable home with a life time tenancy at a rent we can afford.

For the last three years, Bill has helped to run training workshops for healthcare professionals in Bournemouth, where he shares his story:

It was so important to me that The Big Issue Foundation team focused on helping me access healthcare when I first walked through the door and  started selling the magazine. A Service Broker assessed my immediate and longer-term needs. My medication had run out so Liam arranged for me to see a doctor and Chloe was registered with The Dogs Trust so she could stay healthy too!

Last year, Bill attended the 25th birthday celebrations for The Big Issue where he had the opportunity to learn more about the different areas of The Big Issue group.

It was a great opportunity to learn more about the important work of The Big Issue and see other vendors.

This will be Bill’s third Night Walk, which he finds a great experience and a chance to give something back.

I’m so grateful for the support of The Big Issue Foundation, knowing that they are there to help me.


TUESDAY, 15TH DECEMBER 2015

By the time I arrived in Bournemouth I’d been homeless for about a year. I’d had a nervous breakdown caused by overworking, lived in a cave for six months, and spent two months walking the coast with my dog Chloe, sleeping wherever we could find shelter.

On arrival in Bournemouth I asked a Big Issue vendor if there was anywhere safe to put my tent for the night and he showed me where he was camping. During that evening he persuaded me to try selling The Big Issue.

The next morning he introduced me to Liam, a Service Broker at The Big Issue Foundation. Liam went through my induction and assessed my immediate and longer-term needs. My medication had run out so Liam arranged for me to see a doctor and Chloe was registered with The Dogs Trust so she could stay healthy too!

Liam was also able to negotiate to have my Employment and Support Allowance reinstated. At that point I didn’t feel able to make the necessary phone calls and was really grateful that Liam helped me sort it out so quickly.

After being persuaded to attend the blood borne virus in-house clinic at The Big Issue Foundation, I found out that I had Hepatitis C. It’s a condition that attacks the liver and if left untreated can cause life-threatening damage to vital organs. Luckily I was offered treatment – but then it transpired that because of the intensity and side-effects of the treatment I was not allowed to start it until I was suitably housed.

Eventually I was offered a flat but there was another obstacle: I needed a lot of money for the deposit. The Big Issue Foundation again came to the rescue, liaising with other agencies to arrange a deposit bond; I was finally able to move in and start treatment. 

I took part in The Big Issue Flashmob as part of the Arts By The Sea Festival in 2012. This led me to be involved in the festival as a volunteer in 2013 and 2014 and being part of the steering committee for the Bournemouth Emerging Arts Fringe. I also gained an NVQ in customer service incorporating my vending experience, and recently completed the Big Issue Online Journalist Course run by Poached Creative.

Earlier this year my mother died suddenly and I could not afford the train fare to go to her funeral. Yet again The Foundation helped by contributing part of the ticket cost through the Vendor Support Fund.

Today I find myself securely housed in Boscombe and on the community association committee putting together a neighbourhood plan for Boscombe. At the weekends I work as a Big Issue vendor coordinator.

I am now in a far better place than I was when I arrived in Bournemouth. I often wonder where I and many other vendors that I know would be today without that initial and ongoing help of The Big Issue Foundation.

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