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Big issue, a hand up not a hand out

Wednesday 3 March 2010, by juliette

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

We wanted to buy a magazine. The vendor was quite nice and polite which made us comfortable enough to ask him a few questions about his work. We were curious, we wanted to know if it really helped him and if yes, how. He said that it improved his life; that anybody homeless and dedicated could get badged and become officially vendors of the “Big Issue”. The population knows that when they buy an issue that they help directly the vendor. They don’t beg for anything though, they work for it and that’s what makes all the difference. Each vendor buys the magazine themselves to the foundation and sells them; if they fell to sell a magazine, they are not reimbursed hence each individual must manage their sales and finances carefully. These skills, along with the confidence and self-esteem they build through selling the magazine, are crucial in helping homeless people reintegrate into mainstream society. This helps them morally by giving them responsibilities and by giving them confidence in themselves and life.

The foundation Big Issue points the homeless in the right direction. They help them find housing and a better life condition. The vendors become part of a community, they are not isolated anymore. This organization exists in Britain since 17 years and helped 2900 homeless people. The journal is read by more than more than 670000 people by week! The principle is simple: the vendors, homeless or in housing difficulties, buy the magazines at the organization for 75 p and sell it back for 1.50 £. The enterprise fixed themselves two objectives: the publication each week of a quality newspaper and distribution to the vendors; and helping the vendors to take back control of their lives to get out of isolation.

The Big Issue Company publishes a weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine that is really well designed: interesting articles most based on the arts, shows, and music. The printing and grammar are impeccable, and it is of really good quality overall. Inside the magazine, we can also find a lot of call to solidarity, advertisements for charities, child welfare or the environment.

For more information, go on www.bigissue.com.

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