Big Christmas Issues


It’s hard to believe three years have gone by since I wrote a blog about the Big Issue. A lot has changed since then, Bob the Cat has become famous… and a lot has not changed. The price of a Big Issue is the same, £2.50 and £3.00 in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Sellers buy it for half that price.  Homeless people are still with us. Not all Big Issue sellers are homeless, but I’m pretty certain they are not living at the better end of the housing market.

James, the chap I bought my first Big Issue from, was on his pitch for a good while and was easy to chat to; Big Issue sellers are as varied as any group of people and the ones standing up, who are easy to talk to make it more comfortable. It is better to be looking up to someone as an ordinary person earning a living, than looking down on someone huddled on the pavement.

One day James wasn’t there any more, then another chap, Mark, appeared and said James had got a job and a place to live. The page I first turn to is the seller of the week, giving a glimpse into lives on a positive note. Mark has somewhere to live, but it doesn’t sound very secure or salubrious.

Of course the issues remain the same as in my first blog, you pass other Big Issue sellers and feel guilty because you already have this week’s edition. We have a woman at our local shops who I often buy from and have ended up buying the same issue from her and Mark. But buying the Big Issue is a much simpler issue than our attitude to the homeless or those who approach you asking for money.

Shoppers, eyes lowered, pass hurriedly by people huddled in shop doorways; they are embarassed or not sure, or wonder why people from all over the world have jobs in their local shops and restaurants, while this young able bodied person is just sitting in a doorway. Perhaps they would rather spend their hard earned money buying goods for the food bank box. The local council has homeless outreach teams, but people aren’t always easy to help. On local Facebook groups it is always a topic guaranteed to raise disagreement; give food or money? Genuine or con artist?

If we have very cold weather this happens…

Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP)

St Mungo’s, the rough sleeper team, will be making every effort to offer shelter to all people sleeping rough during extreme weather.

Does that make us feel less guilty because we know for sure  something is being done?


As for the magazine, it is a good read, so if you have never bought a copy try it, spalsh out three pounds on a Christmas edition. The cover in the picture was the winner of a competition for children to design a cover and had many entries.

Read my blog from 2016.


12 thoughts on “Big Christmas Issues

  1. I was in London last week and watched people bedding down in spots that were (just barely) out of the rain. Which doesn’t qualify as extreme weather, just ordinary life-sapping bad weather. It’s lunacy that any country, let alone a rich one, lets this happen.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This might interest you. It was just sent out by the publisher & Other Stories in response to the UK elections. It’s a poem by Bertold Brecht. Hang in there, people.

        I hear that in New York
        On the corner of 26th Street and Broadway
        A man stands every evening in the winter months
        And begging passers-by
        Gets a bed for the night for the homeless gathered there.

        The world is not changed by this
        Relations between human beings are not improved
        The age of exploitation is not made any shorter.
        But a few men have a bed for the night
        For one night long they are out of the wind
        The snow that was meant for them falls on the street.

        You reading this, do not put down the book.

        A few men have a bed for the night
        For one night long they are out of the wind
        The snow that was meant for them falls on the street.
        But the world is not changed by this
        Relations between human beings are not improved
        The age of exploitation is not made any shorter.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know about the UK, but here in the US the majority of our street people seem to be mentally ill, on drugs, alcoholics, or a combination. Some years ago, it was decided (by the government, I suppose) that people who were not a danger to themselves or others could not be kept in mental institutions. Homelessness exploded. There should be a middle ground available for these people. On the other hand, there are people, and always have been (remember the “bums” of old) who choose the street life; and there are con men holding the “homeless vet” and “will work for food” signs. I’ve seen them leave their spot at the intersection, walk to a nearby parking lot, and get in their car. I’m not saying all are like this, but a percentage are. And to add to that, there are now entire families living out of their cars because they can’t afford housing. It’s a mess all around, and I have no answer to the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes exactly the same here. ‘Care in the Community’ meant emptying huge Victorian mental hospitals and selling off some prime real estate. When it was revealed that these places often housed old ladies who had been put in there as teenagers only because they had had an illegitimate baby, of course it seemed good that such places should not exist, but of course ‘care in the community’ didn’t really exist. Add to that the recession and ex servicemen not coping with life.


  4. I wasn’t familiar with The Big Issue until today. Homelessness has exploded in the United States. Everywhere I go in my town, I am approached by the homeless. Perhaps because I came close to being homeless when I was a young man, I have more tolerance than some. I agree with someone’s earlier comment about the large percentage of mentally ill people who become homeless. A certain percentage are taking advantage of the generosity of others, but I think this is the exception more than the rule. It is an issue that we need to address sooner than later.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes who would have thought in the 21st century this would be happening. Shortage of accessible accommodation of any sort compounds all the other problems. If someone has no family at all, no one to lend them the rental deposit or send some dosh when there is a crisis, then things can go downhill fast.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amazing how those who have never been in a certain situation, say homeless, seem to be such experts on judging how people came to be in that spot. They say, “Surely they must be lazy, crazy, or drug addicts”, when the reality is that most are none of the above. I was homeless once, for a brief period, through poor life’s choices, but certainly not through laziness, nor craziness, nor was I a drug addict. A little compassion, a little bit of caring, goes such a long way and costs so little, yet so few find it in their hearts to give that … ’tis easier, more convenient, to judge and find them wanting. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Every city and town should have hostels for young working people, somewhere safe and pleasant to act as a safety net. I think even people who are sympathetic are too embarrassed to talk to street people and hear there story.


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