We have been working hard over the past four weeks to support Big Issue vendors during the lockdown.
Vendors we have spoken to have felt desperate, not knowing how they will pay their rent, their bills, or buy food. We advised them to speak with the landlord & energy suppliers to explain the situation. If no compassion is shown, we will investigate it on their behalf.
A major priority was to get any vendors who were sleeping rough indoors.
A vendor in Oxford with underlying health conditions was still sleeping in a tent. We contacted the local outreach team and requested that he be considered a priority. He is now in a Travelodge and has received hospital treatment.
We spoke to one vendor who was very concerned about his finances. He had been denied benefits and we helped to put in an appeal for the refused application. We contacted the Department of Work and Pensions asking what their procedure is regarding processing appeals at this time. They replied and let us know they had changed their original decision, so the vendor no longer needs to appeal. He will be receiving a back payment in the coming days.
Another vendor received a debt collector notice due to council tax arrears. We contacted council tax office and argued due to a low level of English comprehension, they had not understood the severity of the situation. The council agreed to take the debt off the debt collectors and to arrange a payment plan when things return to normal.
Ensuring vendors have enough to eat during this time is also a key priority.
We have been liaising with food banks nationwide to refer vendors and have also been providing supermarket vouchers when required.
We helped a family of 16 access foodbank services. Usually the biggest food vouchers are for families of 5+ which would not provide enough food for such a large family. We contacted the Salma Food Bank who have taken this as an urgent referral and are arranging for them to pick up from their depot today so they can give them larger quantities. We are glad we can keep all generations of this vendors family fed!
Last week we referred a vendor to a food bank and they received a food parcel. However they are in temporary accommodation and had no way to cook. Through the Vendor Support Fund, we have now got him a set of pans and kitchen utensils!
Many vendors have underlying health conditions which can make them more susceptible to the virus. If concerned, we always advise to contact 111.
A vendor who is self-isolating as they have a chronic respiratory condition let us know they didn’t have any electricity. We got in touch with their energy provider and arranged for £100 credit to be put on his meter. We will be keeping in close contact to ensure he is supported as he can’t go out.
And then there are more unique requests…
A vendor in Nottingham was concerned about feeding his pets whilst self-isolating. We arranged a delivery of dog food through Vets in the Community. However, this vendor also has another more unique pet – a snake! We managed to arrange for his local pet shop to deliver frozen mice to keep the snake well fed!
Every vendor’s needs will be unique as every person’s situation is unique and thanks to your support, we will support each individuals needs as best we can.