My name is Anabel and I have been selling The Big Issue in Glasgow since December 2019.
In Spring of 2018 I left a residential community in South West Scotland. I tried staying in Dumfriesshire and Ayrshire, but a year later I went to Glasgow. With no places to stay and no money, I began selling the Big Issue.
I already knew about The Big Issue. When I lived in England I always bought the magazine, usually from the same young woman on Salisbury High Street.
A couple of weeks before the very last of my scant savings ran out, I was in Glasgow for the National Mod. The Mod is a festival of Scottish-Gaelic culture and music. Whilst there, I saw a television programme about homelessness in Scotland on BBC Alba (a Scottish-Gaelic channel). I became aware that the Big Issue’s editorial office was in Central Glasgow. The young presenter interviewed the magazine editor Paul McNamee and this left a very deep impression on me.
It was clear that Paul McNamee is a wonderful leader. His kindness and true commitment to be of service to vulnerable and marginalised people is present and shines through in all of my contact with Big Issue staff.
Facing being alone with nowhere to live and nowhere to stay I found myself turning to the Big Issue for help. I was given support and I was given solidarity. I was given five free magazines and they sent me to sell on Buchanan Street, outside the famous department store Frasers. The team came down to check I was getting on all right in the place that they had sent me to. It was coming on Christmas and people were kind – I sold those 5 issues over the next few hours. From the very first day, I felt supported and included by The Big Issue team.
My experience of homelessness was that I fell through the cracks in society. I slipped below the radar. If you are homeless, constantly moving from one insecure address to another, you cannot get ID, you cannot get on to a GP register, and you cannot provide a prospective landlord with references. You risk rejection at every level of society if your status is disclosed. This led to anxiety and a very deep unhappiness in this period of my life.
I will say that in these situations Police Scotland were amazing. If you say you’re homeless to a police officer in Scotland, they will have one sole thought – how do I get this person safe? I would like to express my gratitude to them for the times they have stood between me and danger.
“The Big Issue gave me the possibility to have confidence, despite being homeless. It opened me up to being able to receive the help I needed.”
The Big Issue gave me the possibility to have confidence, despite being homeless. It opened me up to being able to receive the help I needed from others. I have been glad to be selling The Big Issue because people know what it’s about. People can choose to buy it or not buy it. They know you’re selling The Big Issue because of your situation, and that is how you’re earning your independent living. It is great they can take the simple action of buying a magazine to make a difference to someone.
Literally all the money that I had was from selling the magazine. And it just about got me through until lockdown. Like so many of us, I had quite a difficult experience during lockdown, but now I find myself back in Glasgow, with encouragement from The Big Issue team. It’s amazing to know people care about what’s happening to all us vendors.
Unbeknownst to us, there was work going on behind the scenes at The Big Issue during the lockdowns. We sometimes received hardship grants from The Big Issue, and I would wonder why I had got this. They explained that the team had been working hard to raise funds so that all the vendors who needed it got this support.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, John Bird wrote a text that got sent to every single vendor’s phone for them to wake up to in the morning. It was such a tiny thing, but it was such a brilliant move. It was just so wonderful because it helped you feel that you had not been forgotten about.
“Having a Vendor Outreach Worker taking up cases like mine on a one-to-one basis has made such a difference.”
I have to say the appointment of a Vendor Outreach Worker in Scotland has been brilliant. Matthew, who works in the Glasgow office, has been wonderful to work with. He has helped me find a way forward that is right for me. He will come up with ideas, because he’s looking at the world as closely as possible through my eyes.
Matthew is one of the most deeply thoughtful and compassionate people I have ever met, full of patience and with an artist’s sensitivity to find creative solutions to the most daunting of challenges.
Having a Vendor Outreach Worker taking up cases like mine on a one-to-one basis has made such a difference. He has enabled and empowered me to find my own way to where I need to be and make my own choices. He has done this alongside me without taking over from me.
The very first thing Matthew said we needed to do was get me a form of ID. He supported me through the process. We applied to the Vendor Support Fund to help me get a passport and it was approved straight away. So, just like that, I once again had ID for the first time in many years.
I was very interested in a small housing cooperative in North Glasgow called Hawthorn and Matthew came to an interview with me. They made me a priority for when a single-person flat came up. I was delighted that they got in touch less than four weeks later to say they had somewhere.
On 1st June, I was given keys to my own flat. A place to call home. There is also an area of unused waste ground in which they will be creating a community garden. I am a born gardener. Working in the garden will be an opportunity to show my gratitude.
I am very passionate about the environment, and I always have been. I was a big supporter of Fridays for Future in Glasgow [where young people participated in demonstrations to demand action from political leaders to prevent climate change and for the fossil fuel industry to transition to renewable energy]. The future must be about caring for the Earth – political activism but also on a personal level like what I’m doing at home, at a community level. The creative energy you give back to the Earth will define the future of the planet and I feel very privileged to contribute.
“The Big Issue helped me to see myself differently. What The Big Issue does is absolutely inspirational, and it’s transformed my life.”
The Big Issue saved the dreams that I had. It was like I always knew that there was a place for me, there are things that I want to do, things I want to learn. And to feel like part of society again. And now I can. The Big Issue helped me to see myself differently. What The Big Issue does is absolutely inspirational, and it’s transformed my life.
Looking forward, I want to pursue my Gaelic studies and in the future, visit the Western Isles of Scotland, which is the place I love the most on this Earth. I’m also looking forward to the security to dedicate time to my art.
My present life circumstances are living proof of the power of kindness and humanity. In my case, it was The Big Issue that empowered me to change my life.
I believe that a fairer and more caring world is possible. It begins with ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable people like myself have our voices heard. We can once again take our place in society with our hopes and dreams of a better future. The Big Issue is such a brilliant way to help this become a reality!