Many of you, if not most, would have walked past someone trying to sell you a copy of The Big Issue. And I’m sure that many of you have also rejected the seller in a flurry, passing them off as a mere distraction on a busy day. Maybe after reading this, you’ll think twice about doing that.
The Big Issue was founded in 1991 with the intention of providing jobs for homeless individuals. Since then, a total of over $19 million has been earnt and pocketed by Australia’s disadvantaged. Written by independent and professional journalists, it offers opportunities for them to earn a legitimate income and take a positive step to changing their lives around for the better.
But how does it work? Vendors (the homeless) purchase copies of The Big Issue magazine and sell it on the streets for a price of $6, from which they pocket the difference. As mentioned in a previous blog post, stable jobs are extremely hard to find for many of the homeless population, due to inconsistency of hours, lack of address or phone. However, The Big Issue is an option that allows these individual vendors to choose their own hours, days and period of work, without the need for proper addresses.
Not only does this magazine provide opportunities for the homeless in getting them back on their feet, but also raises awareness in the community about social matters like this, and the importance of helping. It shows us that in society today, the homeless are not simply lazy and do find ways to try make a living to support themselves with basic needs.
So let’s meet a vendor and hear his story:
My mother died when I was seven, and my father when I was 16. I’d always worked, starting from the meat works industry from a young age in order to support myself.
I travelled back to England with a Scottish friend, but unfortunately sad times came and he became sick and suddenly passed away. After that, I didn’t have any money to get back to Australia and when I eventually did, I was already growing old.
Back in Australia, I tried to get any job that I could lay my hands on, including a road sweeping one, but had no luck as nobody was hiring. I couldn’t get any money off Centrelink, or a pension, and soon I found myself homeless and without a job. I had tried and tried, but nobody had given me a chance.
That’s until I found the Big Issue, which I started selling in 2001 on Hunter Street, which I’m still on till this day. My day begins at around 7:30am, and I sell for hours until 2pm, when I then have a break before coming back out. Many of the customers are regulars, so I’ve created relationships with most of them and on many occasions they’ll bring me out a cup of coffee to ease the day.
I used to sleep very close to Hunter Street, and always next to the same people, a guy and a girl, just for safety. But as you get older, like I had become, it becomes more and more dangerous to outside on the streets, you could get bashed or robbed in your sleep.
I’ve now got a house through the Department of Housing and have been living in it for eight months. Through my work with The Big Issue, I’ve been able to save up enough money to properly take care of myself, I want to get some more blankets to keep myself warmer in the winter months- something that I wasn’t used to before.
Like Paul, many of the homeless and disadvantaged do work, mainly through such helpful initiatives like The Big Issue, which offer them second chances and opportunities at a better life.
Next time you walk past someone selling a copy of the magazine, please think twice about ignoring them for a mere $6- you could be helping someone pay for their only meal for the day.
Written by JC