Rumour has it…

There are a number of misconceptions about our vendors and their work. We have broken down the most common misunderstandings

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If you regularly buy The Big Issue or chat with your local vendor, you may be aware of misconceptions about what we and our vendors do.  

We have broken down our most common queries and misunderstandings:  

Selling The Big Issue is a legally recognised form of self-employment. Our vendors are working, not begging. Vendors buy magazines for £2 each from one of our regional offices, then sell them for £4, keeping the money they make. 

Up until this year, Big Issue North operated as a separate magazine from The Big Issue. It began as a Manchester supplement to The Big Issue in the 1990s but ceased production in May 2023 due to slowing sales and increased print, energy, and paper costs. Although the Big Issue North magazine is no longer active, the Big Issue North Trust still works to directly support vendors across the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber.

Big Issue North Trust is a registered charity (charity number 1056041). The Trust raises funds to provide a range of support for regional vendors. This includes help to access services get ID, and support with housing, finances and health.

You don’t have to be homeless to sell The Big Issue. Our most recent vendor audit found that two-thirds of our vendors are currently in housing. While our service is designed to be accessible to people experiencing homelessness – unlike more traditional forms of employment, we do not ask for proof of address, ID, or a bank account for someone to start working with us – we are here for anyone who needs us. 

Whilst Big Issue North is there for anyone who needs us or who wants to earn money. The reality is that most people start selling the magazine because they have no alternatives. Many of our vendors have had challenging, difficult pasts or experiences that continually impact their chance to gain mainstream employment. Several have struggled with mental illness or substance abuse or have criminal records or limited education. Two-thirds of our vendors do not speak English as a first language.

Some of the most common misconceptions we hear are about our Romanian vendors. Sceptics claim that gang members fraudulently buy copies of The Big Issue and force others to sell it, driving them to and from their pitches. This is rooted in several key misunderstandings: 

    • Firstly, it is not possible for anyone to fraudulently buy the magazine. Vendors must register with their nearest office (either in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, or Sheffield) before they can buy magazines. With around 250–350 vendors working at any one time, our frontline staff quickly get to know vendors by face and name. 
    • Secondly, and most importantly, the vendors (usually men) mistaken for gang operatives are simply fortunate enough to come from large, loving families. To save time and money, it is common for large families in which multiple members sell The Big Issue to pool financial resources to purchase a car. One member can then use it to buy everyone’s magazines for the week and to drive their partner, siblings, parents, children, cousins, aunts or uncles who also sell the magazine to and from their pitches.  

Often, people become vendors after hearing about it from family members or friends who sell the magazine. We have more pitches than we have vendors and no cap on how many vendors we can support. This means that nobody ever misses out on accessing our services. Vendors sell on pitches agreed with local councils or businesses who own the land and abide by a code of conduct, which you can read here

There is also no time limit on how long someone can work as a vendor. Some of our vendors have been selling the magazine for decades. Sometimes we face questions about the effectiveness of Big Issue North Trust’s work if vendors aren’t moving on – isn’t it meant to be a “stepping stone” for people towards bigger, better things? But forcing people who were not ready to move on would mean that they would find themselves struggling again. If they cannot start mainstream employment, they lose the stability of the income that selling the magazine provides. This defeats our overall purpose to help people change their lives for the better.

As well as helping them to earn an income, over half of our vendors say that selling the magazine helps them to improve their confidence and motivation. Being a vendor provides a structure to someone’s day. It offers social interaction and gives them something positive to do – all valuable ways to boost someone’s self-esteem.

All donations to Big Issue North contribute towards supporting our vendors and help us to change lives! It costs £45.68 to set someone up as a Big Issue North vendor. This covers an initial assessment of the support that the vendor needs to achieve their aims. It also provides a tabard, ID badge, 10 free magazines to help them get started and a support meeting to review progress. We also work to provide vendors with contactless card readers, costing a further £119, and a photo ID required to operate it if they do not already have some, costing £30.  

If you would like to donate to support our work, you can text BINORTH to 70970 to give £5 or go to 

You can learn more about the work the Big Issue North Trust does, and donate to our seasonal campaigns here

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