Interview with: Renae

A copy of The Big Issue
A copy of The Big Issue

Here at You Over Me, we see the power of engaging with others. So as part of our interview series, we took some time yesterday to talk to another special friend, Sandra (she preferred not to be pictured). A 22 year old girl that lives in a homeless shelter and has been selling The Big Issue for a few years. I’ve known Renae for over a year now, as I walk past her everyday to work, and make sure that I purchase a $6 copy of the magazine to not only start my day, but help make her day just that little bit brighter. Maybe it’s the similarity of our ages that draws me to her, or maybe it’s the warm smile that she gives me every time she sees me. Here is her story:

Q1: Hello again! So to those who don’t know you, tell them a little bit about yourself.

I was born in the Queen Victoria Hospital where my mum was also born. I grew up with a learning disability, and all throughout school I had help from the School Services Officers. As I couldn’t learn really hard stuff, I became interested in making things with my hands, and my favourite subject at school was woodwork, where I made a whole lot of stuff- a coffee table, a chopping  board for my mum, a spice rack. I did this right through school and even completed Year 12 in 2011.

Q2: I can’t even make that! I wouldn’t even know where to start…What did you do after school?

When I finished, I tried to get jobs but couldn’t find anything too serious due to my disability- Subway, Foodland, at shopping centre food courts mainly. I worked a lot as my mum passed away, and I needed money to support myself. I did other jobs like delivering catalogues and stuff but didn’t get a lot of money out of it.

Q3: How did you come to sell The Big Issue? Does it help you out a bit? 

My friend from the shelter at the time was selling it on the streets, and he told me about it. When they trained me and told me what to do, it wasn’t too hard to understand so that was good. The first day that I started, I sold all my magazines in two hours and saved some of the money from it as well. I really like it as I also get to meet other people in a similar position to mine, and we help each other out. I know that it’s not what I want to do forever, but right now, it helps me stay off the streets and into the shelter for $25 a night.

Q4: Describe your average day.

I’ll start my day at 7am and work until 2pm so that I get the morning rush. My favourite spot is near the Strand Arcade because other vendors sit there as well, and it’s nice to see some friendly faces.

Q5: So where do you want to go from here?

Right now, I’m trying to save up to go to TAFE. I really want to get my Certificate II in Furniture Making and Certificate II in Construction, as I think I can do it and I have always liked making stuff, using my hands. My motto is ‘keep moving forward, don’t let anything hold you back”.

Initiatives like The Big Issue give the homeless or disadvantaged opportunities  to reach higher and not simply beg for money. Like Renae, many of them do work, contrary to popular belief. They are still homeless due to the fact that they are currently working for minimum wage, but that doesn’t mean that they will be at that point forever. It might be a pitstop for some, or a giant stepping stone for others. I really do hope that Renae succeeds in life, I sure will be there to help her out on her journey. Watch this space.


Written by JC


The Big Issue: Journalism worth paying for

Bryan Cranston from 'Breaking Bad' on the cover of The Big Issue
Bryan Cranston from ‘Breaking Bad’ on the cover of The Big Issue

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.

A homeless man selling The Big Issue
A homeless man selling The Big Issue

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:

Paul D
Paul D

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