James' story

Tuesday, 10th January 2012

I’ve been back with The Big Issue since May this year. Last time, I didn’t get as much out of selling it, but that’s because you get out what you put in. This time round though it has already begun to help me turn my life around; change my life. I was inspired by the new sales training to take things more seriously and do a more professional job of selling the magazine.

I carry the code of practice round with me at all times. This is because it could help resolve any disputes between other vendors, buskers or other members of the public or other persons working on the High Street. It says in the code not to get in to such disputes so sometimes you just have to walk away and go somewhere you can do the job to the best of your ability.

I have been inspired not only the people and training there, which has helped me believe in my ability to sell but last month they had an Aspirations Week where I took part in most of the activities, which included enrolling on a NVQ course in Customer Service through selling The Big Issue. We also did a quiz on the benefits of and best way of getting back in to work.

The photo shoot that Big Issue worker Ben did, which featured in The Big Issue, was one of the activities too and I was allowed to influence the outcome of the photos and choose the way I wanted them done; even using one of my own drawings to blend in with one of them. You got a raffle ticket and six half price magazines for everything you took part in and I won a new sketch pad and some free cinema tickets. This has all inspired me to start drawing again and do some more photography myself. It got me motivated to get on with my work and research for the market stall which I found out about when I first came back to town.

I’m trying to promote my artwork as much as possible because I have the go ahead to do a market stall for my artwork and other homeless or vulnerably housed peoples work. I just need to get enough of a collection of work and the rent for the pitch together. I have already sold a few prints in town. The Big Issue have been very supportive of this as have the other services in town. They have done photocopies for me and are putting me in touch with people who can help me put a proper business plan together. All of the other services in this town have helped me to get where I am today which is the most healthy and productive I have ever been.

I am still in need of accommodation but I have been helped with this as well and shown how to bid for homes on the housing register so I am gradually going up on the list. My key worker at Julian House, the night shelter, has helped me with this and also got me an interview for a room at one of the hostels in town.

There is lots of help and opportunity in Bath, you just need to know where to go, which is where the homeless guide that The Big Issue provide is useful - because it has all the contact details and also a map of the city centre, which has also helped me to give directions to the people in town, even if they don’t want a magazine. It gives a good impression that shows I don’t mind going the extra mile to help someone in the street and not expect anything in return. Because when you sell The Big Issue and wear the uniform you represent all your fellow vendors as well as the magazine and yourself.

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