How to help our vendors

Your support has helped some vendors return to work and eased the hardship of those who can’t, reports Brontë Schiltz

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On Monday, as non-essential businesses reopened across the UK, the first of our vendors returned to work after 11 weeks off the streets.

Knowing this would have an enormous impact on vendors, many of whom have no other source of income, we set up a hardship fund to provide financial support while they were unable to work. Over 700 of you pulled together and, incredibly, donated over £70,000, as well as buying the magazine online at issuu.com/bigissuenorth or shop.bigissuenorth.com, or from Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-Op, Asda, One Stop, Morrisons, Waitrose or Booths. 

This incredible generosity has allowed us to cover everything from rent and bills to grocery shopping for vendors unable to access a food bank and transport for vendors with medical appointments. We couldn’t have done any of this without your support, and we cannot overstate how grateful we are for everything you have done for our vendors.

As the vendors return to the streets, we will resume our traditional model of selling magazines directly to them. They pay £1.50 for each one, selling it for £3 and keeping the difference as their hard-earned income. While the magazine also continues to be available from retailers, half the cost price of those sales goes to the vendor hardship fund.

However, earning an income is not the only reason people sell Big Issue North. Vendors tell us their work also helps them to improve their confidence and motivation, and that they value getting to interact with customers. Our vendors are proud to work, not beg, and say that selling the magazine hugely benefits their mental health. They were very keen to get back to work as soon as possible. We have been closely monitoring government advice, and decided that it made sense for vendors to begin to return to work on 15 June, providing it was safe for them and their customers.

Safety has been our priority. Thanks to your donations, we have been able to buy a number of SumUp machines – contactless devices that accept payment cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay. Our staff have worked incredibly hard to help vendors set up the bank accounts and ID they need to use the machines.

You have also helped us equip vendors with PPE. Whether you sent us visors or reusable face masks in the post, bought items for our vendors in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds or Sheffield at hope-revolution.org/ppe-shop, volunteered your time to put together PPE packs, donated to our hardship fund or continued to buy the magazine, you have played a huge role in providing our vendors with everything they need to get back to work safely.

Although some vendors are now back on the street, this is not yet possible for everyone. We are only allowing vendors to return to pitches where they can maintain social distancing. For those who are shielding or live with someone who is, a return may be a long way off. The magazine will therefore continue to be available from supermarkets during a transitional period for customers whose local vendor cannot yet return to work. We will also continue to rely on your generosity to support those vendors.

To make a donation to our hardship fund, please text HARDSHIP to 70970 to give £5, or go to easydonate.org/HARDSHIP to give as much or as little as you can afford. You can also support vendors by buying merchandise or taking out a subscription to our new quarterly magazine, The New Issue, at shop.bigissuenorth.com. All proceeds go towards supporting vendors who cannot work, and providing everything those who can need to get back on the street safely.

Alongside hundreds of individuals, we would like to extend our thanks to a few organisations: the Hope Revolution, for facilitating the donation of PPE to our vendors; the Red Cross, for donating reusable masks made by refugees and asylum seekers in lockdown; Fletcher Moss Rangers FC, for donating 60 bags of sleeping mats, socks, gloves, hats and toiletries; and Mancmade Clothing, for donating masks and giving £1 from each sale of their commercially available masks to our hardship fund. You can buy a mask from Mancmade Clothing on Etsy at tinyurl.com/ydyn42yk.

This has been the greatest challenge we have faced but, thanks to you, we have been able to face it head on. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much.

Interact: Responses to How to help our vendors

  • You can help Big Issue North vendors survive the COVID-19 pandemic – Brontë Schiltz
    15 Jun 2020 19:39
    […] 12/06/2020 […]

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