Big Issue vendors are once more reeling as the latest coronavirus lockdown has cut them off from their source of income and their sense of community.
Across England, Wales and all of mainland Scotland, people must stay at home except for a handful of permitted reasons.
This means that none of the 1,340 regular Big Issue vendors are able to sell the magazine.
“It’s an absolute nightmare,” said London vendor Rob, 52, “and it just looks like it is all going to get worse.”
Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.
The coronavirus crisis has had a mixed impact on Rob’s life.
Before the pandemic, he had been living rough and spent six months sleeping in a night shelter. But through the Everyone In scheme – through which the government aimed to get all rough sleepers off the streets – he was given a room in a hotel.
The Everyone In scheme saved lives and charities have called for its return. This week the government announced that all councils will be given an additional £10 million in funding to aid their efforts to offer accommodation to rough sleepers across England.
Just before Christmas Rob was delighted to get his own permanent place to stay in North London.
However, as he lives on his own, he is concerned about the loneliness he will face as the result of being unable to sell the magazine.
“My income is going to be affected but the lockdown is also very isolating,” he said.
“When you are out selling The Big Issue, you’re always in contact with people so this lockdown and not being able to see anyone is going to be very isolating, as I am on my own. I have lost my sense of purpose and I feel all over the place and don’t really know where I stand now.”
Cambridge-based vendor, Lee Welham, 37, [pictured above] echoed Rob’s concerns about the mental health impact of the lockdown.
“Usually at this time of the year, my bi-polar [mental health] gets really bad so without work, it will only get worse,” he said.
“I really miss the interaction with my customers because it’s not always about the sales. I really enjoy the two minute’s chat with people that actually care about you.
“I do worry about the virus though and I worry for my customers as well. I hope they are all safe.”
With the hope of widespread vaccination on the horizon, Big Issue editor Paul McNamee called on supporters to rally round their local vendors to get them through the next 100 days.
“As before, our vendors will immediately be hammered hard. They will lose the ability to make an income. And they’ll lose that vital connection they have with their customers,” he said.
“But there is now a sense of an ending. The vaccine rollout means we head into this period with more hope.”
As during previous lockdowns, The Big Issue is offering support for vendors – both financial and for their wellbeing. But McNamee said that the magazine could only keep doing this with readers’ help.
“We need you,” he added. “Together we can stand with your vendors and look forward to them being back on the streets, making their living, changing their lives and seeing you.
“We’re counting down because we believe that in 100 days things will be on the up. But we need you through these 100 days.”
Many Big Issue vendors are now signed up to appear on an interactive map, which allows customers to directly support their local seller by buying a subscription from them. The vendor then gets 50 per cent of the net proceeds.
If your local vendor is not yet on our map, you can still support vendors across the country by signing up for a digital subscription through the Big Issue app, or to get the print magazine through your door every week (or both!). Find out how here.