Words by Abi Scaife
Everyone knows the site of a Big Issue vendor - the red jackets, the beanies, the magazine. It’s a welcome sight, a sign of change and an organisation that is fighting to make a positive difference every day.
But the reality is it’s also a job where you’re stood outside all day, and in winter, freezing cold - working hard to cover the basics.
It’s always difficult when you don’t have a safe or stable home to return to - but in winter it’s harder than ever.
That’s why this Christmas The Big Issue is launching a new support kit for its vendors.
According to The Big Issue, a social enterprise whose mission is to unlock opportunities for people trapped in poverty, there is a huge influx of people signing up to sell the magazine every winter.
“Sadly, we are witnessing the strain of making ends meet amongst our vendors, coupled with an influx of people at the sharp end of poverty, coming to us to sell the magazine as a vital source of income and to cover their basic winter needs,” explained Lord John Bird, the founder of The Big Issue.
“This Christmas we are asking people to come together and bring warmth, support, and hope to as many vendors as possible.”
Their brand new Big Issue Winter Support Kits cost just £34.99, and go a long way to helping their vendors. The money goes towards supplying Big Issue vendors with a Big Issue beanie hat, a hot drink and lunch item, supported by Greggs - a huge help during these winter months.
On top of this, the money provides equipment to increase earnings through cashless transactions and a personalised support plan, including sales and employment training from the Big Issue’s Frontline Team.
Plus, you get 4 issues of the magazine delivered straight to your door - which is great if you don’t have a local Big Issue vendor to buy from, or if you want to buy the Support Kit as a gift for a loved one.
“Your support will not only ensure vendors survive the winter but can make a better life for themselves in 2024,” added Lord Bird. “Be a beacon of change for Big Issue vendors this Christmas, while supporting our ongoing mission to dismantle poverty.”
The Big Issue is a symbol of hope for so many - not simply providing a job, but providing training and experience, so that the most vulnerable people in society have the foundations to build a life for themselves, free from poverty.
“Through The Big Issue, I learned that there is another way and another path,” said Ian Duff, a Big Issue seller. “It's a structure to help you help yourself. That's probably the best learning curve I had, once I became homeless - to learn to help myself.”
Sellers buy the magazines from The Big Issue for £2, and then go and sell them for £4 - keeping the difference. It enables the sellers to earn money and learn important skills like entrepreneurship, sales techniques and so much more.
“I’ve not got benefits, I’ve not got a house,” said Rodica Stoica, another Big Issue seller. “[But] they can help with any problem - house, benefits, selling magazines. They help me, that’s very good.”
The Big Issue can only continue to support people like Ian and Rodica with the help of the UK public. They might supply their sellers with the magazines, and the training and assistance - but it is up to ordinary people like us to buy from those sellers, to talk with them, embrace them, and take a stand against poverty.
“Sometimes the most important thing is just to be able to talk to someone rather than just being on your own all the time,” said Ian. “It becomes more family rather than just buying a magazine. It's all been positive. So it's just a big thank you to everyone who's helped me and supported me.”
By buying one of The Big Issue Winter Support Kits you are providing real people, like Ian and Rodica, with immediate, tangible help. Your purchase will make a huge difference in helping them to escape poverty and to stay safe this winter while they work to support themselves and their families.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
St Mungo’s. St Mungo's is a leading UK homelessness charity supporting over 3150 people every night. Help us end homelessness and rebuild lives. Support them here.
Centrepoint. This charity supports homeless young adults aged 16-25 and aims to end youth homelessness in the UK. Find out more here.
Emmaus. Emmaus is a UK-based charity and community working together to end homelessness. Learn more here.