Lockdown was particularly difficult for Brighton vendor Pamela Clark, who spent the 15 weeks away from her job selling the magazine cooped up in a one-room flat beset with problems.
So July 6 brought with it not just joy at a return to her Blackington Road Co-op pitch, she and Hove vendor partner Paul Clarkson are also celebrating a move into a new private-rented flat.
The basement lockdown residence that the couple had shared took its toll on them mentally and physically. They had to live with a blocked toilet and no television reception that made it difficult to fill the long lockdown days.
It’s really nice to see our regulars and now that we’re back out word is starting to spread
As well as supporting the pair with food vouchers and cash during their long spell off the streets, The Big Issue also stepped in to buy them a laptop which kept them entertained and allowed Pamela to create a lockdown diary that boosted her mental wellbeing.
And Pamela couldn’t be happier that they are now getting the chance of a “new start”.
She told The Big Issue: “It’s a real new start for us. Totally, it’s been really crazy.
“This one-bed flat is brilliant, it’s beautiful. It’s local and has a nice bedroom, freshly done bathroom, a lovely front room and a kitchen with everything in it – it was needed.”
Throughout lockdown, Pamela has been desperate to get back on the streets to see her customers after The Big Issue halted street sales on March 20.
The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.
While she notes that her return to her pitch was quiet initially – and slightly more successful for Paul – that interaction with customers has been vital for both.
She said: “I’ve seen a few of my regulars – one guy came and bought an issue off me on Tuesday and he was chatting away with me for an hour and a half. He lives on his own and said he hadn’t been really out. He told me that it was good to see me back and he filled me on what had been going on while we were away. It’s really nice to see our regulars and now that we’re back out word is starting to spread.”
These priceless conversations with her customers are only possible because of the health and safety measures that The Big Issue has installed as well as the PPE-packed vendor Welcome Back Kit that we are giving out to all returning and new vendors.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to is absolutely amazed at what was waiting for us when we went back to get our magazines” she said. “The backpack, the hand sanitiser, the face coverings, masks and gloves. They were asking if The Big Issue had done this off their own back and I told them that they are working for vendors and the more magazines we sell the more they can do for us vendors.
“There’s no way we could have come out without being safe or our customers being safe, so it’s been amazing. That’s the major feedback I’ve had. People are so pleased that we’re back on track.
“They were blown away by the work that The Big Issue had done during lockdown to help vendors. That’s really important to get out there.”