The Big Issue Street Team

Posted by editor 11/11/2013 0 Comment 3419 views


‘A hand up, not a handout’, the motto of the Big Issue, is evident within the activities of its lesser known ‘Street Team’, says Danielle Aumord. //

The street team in London consists of three full-time members of staff, and numerous volunteers all decked out in bright red jackets. London team leader Nadia Manganello advises that they are the “first point of contact for anyone who wants to become a vendor”.

In a nutshell they organise assessments and inductions for the magazine’s vendors, besides signposting them to other services and organisations that can assist them. Matthew Morley, the Big Issue’s service broker, illustrates how this works: “The Street Team engage with vendors on a face-to-face level, particularly the new ones to find out how they’re getting along. (Potential vendors) can be referred to the Big Issue Foundation where we can help them by organizing medical appointments, referring them to a day centre or a housing advisor,” he says.

In an induction of one of the latest recruits, we watch a video shown to all potential vendors. Founder John Bird explains that vendors can receive literacy training and ‘move on’ assistance. The video also features a particularly chirpy vendor-turned-franchisee named Bean. “Vendors can also get help with obtaining a passport,” he says, excitably. Bean operates from the capital’s Victoria. As a franchisee he helps to train the newbies and supplies other vendors with the magazine saving them a journey over to Vauxhall, where the Big Issue’s London offices are based.

Whilst on a short tour with Samath Gammampila (pictured above right), the street team assistant, I get a first hand insight into what else they get up to. The main objective is to keep an eye on the vendors, and to find out whether they need any other support. One of the vendors we encounter has bruises on his face and blood shot eyes. He says ‘hello’ to me, but doesn’t feel like talking. Samath confides that this vendor has serious problems and launches into what potentially could be done for him: “We can make referrals for people who want help with drug and alcohol addictions.”

Our next pit stop is in Covent Garden. Here we chat with an old timer called Sam. She appears to be in her late forties, with sparking blue eyes and bright reddish, maroon hair. Like Bean, she’s another vender-cum-franchisee.  Sam says that she “cracked on with her business without too much assistance”. She’s a rarity, and one of the veterans that the street team often leads new vendors to for extra support.

As I end my tour and come back to the office, I am greeted by delighted vendors harping on about the support they’ve received from the street team. Some have had flu jabs organized for them and others have been sent on financial budgeting courses.

Assistance is offered to them in every area of managing their micro-businesses. The street team run workshops to assist them in developing their sales techniques, and make referrals to the Big Issue Foundation for people that need help applying for a National Insurance number, registering as self-employed and advice in terms of paying tax.

Andre Rostant, 50, who has been selling The Big Issue for almost a year now, is particularly grateful for the contact with the Street Team. His pitch is outside Pret A Manger on Poland Street, Soho. According to Andre, the advantage of the Street Team is that “it’s good to know that someone cares. They ask you how you are.”

He also acknowledges the help that some of his peers receive whilst struggling with substance abuse issues. “They can make referrals for people not known to social services to be offered help they might not have received. The Street Team help a lot of vulnerable peoples to edge their way back into society.”

















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