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Selfless vendor Richard Todd is volunteering to keep a homeless centre going

With fears that the St Petrock’s Day Centre in Exeter might be forced to close due to self-isolating volunteers, popular seller Richard is stepping up to help out

Richard Todd @jillpendleton1864

Much-loved Big Issue vendor Richard Todd has selflessly stepped up to volunteer at his local homeless day centre after new coronavirus guidance meant that over-70s needed to self-isolate.

That reportedly left the St Petrock’s Day Centre in Exeter short of volunteers — with many workers that the charity relies on coming from the elderly community, according to Richard.

The vendor, 54, who sells the magazine outside Boots on Exeter High Street, heard that the centre may have to close its doors and restrict contact to passing food over the threshold.

And he has offered his time to help out as the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a huge impact on the country’s most vulnerable people.

Richard uses the centre himself for help with counselling and benefits advice and insists that he just wants “to help in any way that he can”.

“Volunteers have just had to go home as it is not fair to expect them to continue. It’s completely understandable,” he told The Big Issue.

“Because I am a Big Issue seller, I haven’t felt the need to use the centre for food but I receive counselling from a medical psychologist there on a Friday and then there are benefits advisers who I occasionally see. I’ve also had the occasional item of clothing from there too. But in the time I have been selling The Big Issue, just over a year now, it has been reassuring for me to be able to go down there.

“The staff there do sterling work and in the winter they are under so much pressure, I just feel sorry for them.”

A representative from St Petrock’s told The Big Issue that the charity are not looking for volunteers at the current time.

Richard has also written to his local MP, Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, to ask about measures to protect homeless people during the coronavirus outbreak, even suggesting that buildings left empty, like hotels and schools could be used to help people with nowhere else to go to self-isolate.

The vendor has become a big part of the community since he started selling the magazine in January 2019 and has become known for his passion for looking after the pigeons in Exeter. Richard has also taken a keen interest in supporting homeless people in the Devon city and has been with the Comic Relief-funded Exeter Homeless Partnership in the last few weeks, adding his expertise to discussions on alternative giving schemes.

He insists that the coronavirus has already had an impact on his pitch.

“Footfall is really dropping off and elderly people are obviously staying at home,” he added. “They make up a big part of our client base. It’s difficult but some people are seeing our plight and they are being helpful. But it is leaving me time on my hands to help and I’m trying to do anything I can to do that.”

If you want to support vendors like Richard but can’t currently get to a pitch, you can subscribe to receive magazine physically or digitally. Head to bigissue.com/subscribe for details

Image: @jillpendleton1864

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