The Big Issue has been working tirelessly to support vendors through the Covid-19 lockdown – and for Brighton and Hove vendors Pamela Clark and Paul Clarkson, that meant buying them a laptop computer.
The pair are in lockdown in emergency accommodation while they are temporarily unable to sell the magazine. And the single basement room they share has left the couple feeling “depressed and isolated” as it doesn’t receive television signal and has limited scope to reach the outside world.
So, as well as supporting them with supermarket vouchers and cash, The Big Issue has also bought a laptop for Pamela. She told us that it’s been a “lifeline”.
We’ve just got one room and it’s quite claustrophobic because we’re used to being out there
Not only will they now be able to pass the hours indoors by watching films, access to a laptop has also let Pamela contact family and write a lockdown journal which she hopes will chronicle these uncertain times from the unique perspective of a Big Issue vendor.
Pamela, 52, who usually sells the magazine at Blackington Road Co-op or WHSmith on George Street in Brighton, said: “The laptop has allowed me to get my thoughts down straight away and that has made a heck of a difference to me. It also means I can get in touch with family and so it has relieved the isolation a lot.
“To not be selling the magazine at the minute has been depressing and there have been some down, lonely days. We’ve just got one room and it’s quite claustrophobic because we’re used to being out there.
“I want to make a journal of everyday we’ve been in lockdown to show the impact that being told that we cannot sell The Big Issue has had on us. And when Paul and I go back on our pitches I want to add to it with messages from our customers and to cover the welcome that we get.
“If I wake up in the middle of the night I can get up and pop stuff on the laptop, like my dreams. It’s absolutely brilliant. It’s been a lifeline for me.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Like many vendors, Pamela was “shocked” by the sudden news that she would be unable to sell the magazine on her pitch.
Since then, she has heard from plenty of her customers via text message and been supported by The Big Issue.
It’s a new reality that has left her “humbled” – and desperate to get back on her pitch.
When you’re homeless you’re just a number, but when I started selling The Big Issue, I had got a purpose again
“The Big Issue have been so helpful with everything. They’ve been really supportive and it’s so nice to know how much they care for their vendors. It’s really lovely, it’s like being part of a family. We’ve got a sense of belonging,” she added.
“People are missing us and they’re missing The Big Issue as well. We have a lot of support out there and lots of lovely customers. A lot of them have become really good friends. It’s just so nice to have that. Without the help I got from The Big Issue, I’d be scrambling to get all that information down on bits of paper. It’s really important for me. I want to do this not just for myself but also so people can understand what it was like for us. When you’re homeless you’re just a number, but when I started selling The Big Issue, I had got a purpose again.
“I would like to say to my customers that I hope you are all well and safe. I can’t wait to see them when all this sorted out. I’m sure that they’ll love The Big Issue that comes out that week – it’s gonna be massive! We will be back!”
The Big Issue can only keep supporting vendors like Pamela and Paul with your help. You can help vendors by subscribing to the magazine to receive it directly to your door or device – head to bigissue.com/subscribe for details. You can also take out a subscription or buy one-off issues on the new Big Issue app, available free from the App Store and on Google Play. Or you can pick up a copy at Sainsbury’s, Co-op, McColl’s, Asda or WH Smith stores.