We’re helping Big Issue vendor Jacques through isolation with books and arts

The London Oval seller has been struggling with his mental health while being temporarily housed at a hostel

Much-loved vendor Jacques Lamma has been struggling to keep his spirits up while in emergency accommodation in London – so The Big Issue is helping him indulge his passion for the arts.

The Italian seller, 49, told The Big Issue that he feels that his new hostel home is safer and offers more protection from Covid-19 than rough sleeping and sofa surfing with friends as he was before the lockdown.

Jacques Lamma
Jacques has been housed in a London hostel throughout the Covid-19 lockdown

But being cooped up in the small room has been a mental challenge for Jacques, who is used to working every day on his pitch outside the Oval tube station in South London.

So The Big Issue has been ensuring that he can keep his head buried in a book during lockdown with a number of short story collections sent his way. We have also ordered him acrylic paints, brushes and a watercolour pad to keep Jacques entertained while he is trying to fill his time in his hostel room.

The small gesture is a chance for him to rediscover the things he loves and he intends to use the paints to express his feelings about the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I like to paint the outdoors but the piece I am thinking of at the minute is a portrait of me in a mask as an opinion I have of the start of this virus,” said Jacques, who came over to the UK in the early 90s to be with friends following a spell in India.

“I like the visual aspect of painting, you can just put what you’ve got in your head on to the canvas. Everything goes really – it passes through your head and you can get it down on paper.

“It has been hard in the period that I have had to stay here all day – it’s not a very big room. The Big Issue has been a big help. I must have read about seven books that I had got before I got here.

“Jeri in the office asked me about titles and authors and sent me a few books.

“It has been helpful because I like reading and when I have been on the streets that is all I use to do. It’s an escape for me and it also fills the time.

“I definitely say I’ve had a lot of help from The Big Issue.”

DID YOU KNOW…

If you pay for the magazine you should always take it. Vendors are working for a hand up, not a handout.

As well as helping Jacques get creative, The Big Issue is also ensuring that he is getting all the help that he needs with cash and food vouchers as well as referring him to a foodbank who delivered groceries for him to cook in his room.

We have also helped Jacques with past debts, linking him up with Citizens Advice to help him get on top of his finances. It’s a vital step after Jacques, who started selling the magazine for the first time in 17 years last September when he lost his job working for Deliveroo, saw his income from vending stopped overnight at the end of March.

Now he can’t wait to get back on his pitch when it is safe for him to return.

Seeing my regular customers used to really help me. I would love to go back to my pitch

Jacques added: “Rather than being outside all the time, it is safer to be in the hostel but the hostel is crowded apart from the room. I am lucky that I can cook in my room rather than sharing the kitchen but there has been no one coming down with symptoms, which is good.

“I miss selling the magazine because I used to go to my pitch daily. The last time I was there at the end of March, it was very sad because there was hardly anybody there – the station was open but in two or three hours about 50 people came in and out.

“It was a scene that I have never witnessed before. People were wary to come close.

“Seeing my regular customers used to really help me. I would love to go back to my pitch.”

The Big Issue can only keep supporting vendors like Jacques with your help. You can buy one-off issues or subscriptions from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

You can keep us going by subscribing to the magazine to receive it every week directly to your door or device. Head to bigissue.com/subscribe for more details.

You can also get a copy in stores for the first time. Head to Morrisons, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-op, Asda or WH Smith to grab the latest issue.

Image: Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo