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.

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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.

#youoverme

Written by JC

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NFL stars spend a day in the life of a homeless person… and are shocked at what they find

In recent times, it’s hard to ignore the soaring amount of homeless people living on the streets. “Will they be cold out here? What happens to them if they don’t get enough money to buy food for the day? Where are there families?” are just some of the many thoughts that constantly run through our heads when seeing them. Whilst it’s impossible to stop and talk to every single homeless person on every single street, how you react to even one of them speaks a great deal more. Whilst it’s great to simply tell you what they deal with on a daily basis, it’s even better to show you.

Chris Long
Chris Long

Chris Long and William Hayes, two players from the NFL’s St Louis Rams decided to see for themselves the hardships that the homeless constantly suffer from. These two men, who usually live the opposite of life on the streets and are worth millions, put themselves in homeless shoes for a couple of days with only $8 between them, where they panhandled, slept outside, and begged for money.

William Hayes
William Hayes

During this time, they were questioned by police repeatedly just for walking past looking homeless, asked to leave their makeshift home for the night due to trespassing, and stared down by many who didn’t think twice about it. They even met Marty, a chronically homeless man that has made his home in an empty building in St. Louis, who used to own a wrecking company became homeless due to a bitter divorce and DWI’s. Upon meeting him and hearing his story, both players immediately wanted to help out, and were able to put him and another into temporary housing, helping them support them for the first two months.

With only those $8 between them two, begging for money for dinner became a must. Chris managed to get $5 from a generous driver, which meant that the two could now go and buy a burger each from the fast food store, instead of going to the soup kitchen for a small free meal, and it was then that they both realized how much such a small amount of money actually meant to the homeless. In many cases in everyday life, many people simply use spare change or spare silver coins to drop into people’s hats- think about how big of a smile you can put on their faces if you give more! After all, they’re much more in need than we are.

This experience led to many realizations, firstly by Chris, that “the causes of homelessness are so multiple and layered”. How we treat others is important, as none of us have any idea what they’re really going through.

“Now when I see a homeless person, I see lives on detour. Mothers and fathers struggling to be reunited with their children, faces that have been deprived of sleep and shelter. Individuals living in fear and loneliness. Human beings looking to reclaim their dignity… I just can’t look away anymore”.- Chris Long.

We at You Over Me feel greatly inspired by this video, and would like it to give some insight into the hard lives of the homeless. When we’re sleeping warm and comfily in our beds in Winter, many of them are constantly being told to move along at night or don’t even have the warm protection required. Imagine being looked down upon every time you walk the streets! Let’s bind together and realize that we are all the same, and they deserve the help that we are able to give.

Video source credit: Tony Bologne II 

Written by JC

Interview with: Joe

'Joe'
‘Joe’

Here at You Over Me, we see the power of engaging with others. So we took some time yesterday to go talk to someone special to find out his story and the reason why he is where he is today. We met up with ‘Joe’ (he preferred not to be pictured), a 39 year old homeless man that is usually situated in Newtown, and I drive past him everyday that I go to work. He always has all of his possessions packed into three or four bags next to him. He’s certainly not your average joe (pun intended), and showed me that there is definitely always more the eye. 

Q1: How did you come to live here?

I used to live in a little house with my wife at the time, and owned my own business (he described it as a paper printing company, similar to Kinko’s). It was destroyed by the downturn in the economy and the Internet and personal computers coming in- not many people needed to come in and print documents anymore as they had their own printers at home. It was so sad, I’d owned the company for over 10 years and had built so many relationships from it. After that, my wife and I started to grow apart and eventually she wanted a divorce, which because of a prenup that we signed before, I had to give her most of my money on top of expensive divorce fees.  I spiralled into depression and drinking. I’ve been homeless for about two years now.

Q2: What do you do everyday? Do you have job?

Contrary to popular belief, some of us work bloody hard everyday. Although I no longer have a home, everyday I’m trying to pick myself up and save up for something small. I wasn’t always like this (homeless), and I don’t believe I always will be. I work as a cleaner in the city, and so every morning I wake up at about 6am and go to the gym on the corner where they let me use the showers and get ready for work. Real nice of them. Rand, the owner he’s a good bloke, always helps me out when I’m in need. I work damn hard and haven’t called in sick even for one day. But the rental and housing rates are just too high, I can’t afford it at the moment and haven’t been able to get too many shifts.

Q3What’s the hardest part of being homeless?

Everyday is a struggle. Finding something to eat that is substantial, finding shelter when the shelter homes are full. The other day, I went into Maccas to get something to eat, and it was humiliating. Everyone was looking down at me because of the way that I was dressed. I used to be like everyone else, but it sometimes seems like we’re a completely different race or group from others. I didn’t get any shifts the week before as the company that I work as a cleaner closed for a week and didn’t need me, so I didn’t have much money for food. I wanted to get a burger but I only had a few dollars in my pocket, and I was missing 50 cents. So I couldn’t get the burger as I didn’t have 50 cents. It’s also hard because although I don’t have an alcohol problem anymore, sometimes when it’s freezing out here and all I have is one thin blanket, sometimes not even, I’m going to go to the liquor store and buy a drink when it’s that cold to warm me up a bit.

Joe, like many others, are not simply homeless because they choose to be. Many hardships and personal traumas have led to such situations, and many of them are working hard to change that around. We hope that this interview has helped bust the myth that homeless people are lazy and don’t actually have jobs. Clearly, that’s not the case. Stay tuned for more interviews!

Written by JC

Meet the Melbourne man placing the needs of the homeless over his own

Nasir Sobhani
Nasir Sobhani

Less than five years ago, Nasir Sobhani depended on any type of drug that he could come by, leading to a downward spiral that nearly ruined his life.

Now a changed man, Nasir has been sober for a few years and works as a barber, taking two days off a week to travel around Melbourne to give haircuts to the homeless for free.

“A homeless person doesn’t get the respect and attention needed”, Nasir says. “So letting them know that they are worthy of human interaction is actually the main purpose here”.

homeless 2
Nasir’s first client

His first patron was a heroin addict who wasn’t jobless (as everyone would assume), but washed the windows everyday for the barber shop where Mr Sobhani worked at.

“I asked him to let me cut his hair, so we sat down together and we shared out stories about our past… After I was done… his mum even came in and was taking photos and was in tears”.

Whilst talking to Nasir, he made sure to let us know that the connections created with these homeless people were held in high regard, and that the difficult stories that were shared from them only made him want to help them more.

Let’s encourage people to be more like Nasir- let’s place the needs of the homeless over ours #youoverme in order to pave the way for a better world.

You can follow his journey here:

https://instagram.com/thestreetsbarber/?hl=en

http://www.thestreetsbarber.com/

Written by JC