Big Issue?

There’s nothing to support a view that living on the street is anything but a hard existence. Whether or not the Big Issue sellers that pepper Oxford’s streets are choosing to live rough, or have been forced into it by misfortune, surely they deserve a helping hand and a measley £1.50?

Christ, I’d love to say I believed that all the time. Just the other day my girlfriend got a mouthy reply when she turned down a vendor, and everyone must have run into the odd seller who is quite clearly frustrated and angry at their own invisible humiliation.

I’ll buy the mag once in a while. I’ve occasionally just handed as much as I found in my wallet over to a Big Issue vendor when the thought has hit me that, c’mon, how badly am I going to miss this small amount of cash? But most of the time I decline with just a “No, thanks”.

Generally, I think you can’t go wrong with that. There are plenty of people who will blank a Big Issue seller, for whatever reason, and pretend they just don’t hear the plea. But even someone who might unconciously intimidate you deserves the minimum of polite acknowledgement.

And yet… I’ve turned away from Big Issue sellers in brand new trainers, or who answered their phones. I’m conflicted about this. I’m not saying that homeless people shouldn’t be allowed to buy clothes or phones, but what really bugs me is that shouldn’t selling the Big Issue be for people who don’t have enough money for food, let alone luxuries?

My girlfriend has a pretty hardline view, but she’s polite and pleasant and sticks to her beliefs. And I’m sure there are a few sellers out there that are, sadly, aggressive and intimidating. Myself, I’d just like to know that the people I’m giving my money to actually need it. Need it, not just can’t get money any other way.

Sticky subject, but if you’ve enough to buy a phone (PAYG, sure, but still) and pick up some fresh clothes, should you be selling the Big Issue? Should selling the Big Issue be a ‘job’ instead of a well-intentioned leg-up to give someone without any other chances an opportunity to rebuild their lives?

What’s the next step though? If you get to the point where selling the Big Issue has helped you live a life that isn’t dependent on what you can beg from a street corner (and I have seen several vendors begging elsewhere) where do you go from there?

I’m bored of this. Keeping this up shouldn’t be so yawnworthy. Oh well, another day.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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