Big Issue vendors are ubiquitous in London — you might walk past half a dozen in an average day. What’s less well known is the fact that every vendor is running their own micro-business, buying magazines for £1.25 from the Big Issue Foundation’s (BIF) base in Vauxhall and selling them at £2.50. The discipline and forward planning this requires gives the vendors, many of whom are recovering from personal crises, a taste of working life that proves crucial in their reintegration into society.
Recently, the BIF — which is a completely separate charity from the magazine and solely reliant on donations — has been running a corporate partnership programme designed to ease this transition. Started a year ago, the programme enables vendors to go into a corporation one day a week for six months and sell the magazine to employees in the canteen or reception.
The idea is that, by being in a professional environment with access to the pooled expertise and experience of a company’s workforce, the vendor gains increased self-esteem, develops a smarter appearance and receives training and work experience. So far, Simmons & Simmons and Freshfields have signed up and in a survey of their employees, 70 per cent said that the scheme had changed their attitude towards Big Issue vendors.
One vendor has obtained a job as a result of the partnership scheme. Joel Hodgson completed a year-long placement at Freshfields and is now employed full time in the firm’s billing department. ‘It is amazing what can be achieved from something as simple as a sale,’ says BIF’s CEO, Stephen Robertson.
Wealth-management houses, private banks and law firms can give vendors — those who have the self-motivation to drag themselves out of poverty and hardship but lack the opportunities — the opening they need to rebuild lives broken by personal crises. And, in the process, they will contribute to the shattering of stereotypes surrounding homelessness and gain a deeper understanding of a social issue that urgently demands new and creative solutions.
How You Can Help:
Companies can offer vendors the opportunity to sell the magazine in their canteens/receptions one day a week for six months, and training and guidance during that time.