Big Issue

Big Issue
John Bird


Ten years ago I was asked by The Times what I intended doing for the next ten years. I said for the last ten years I have been fixing broken clocks. For the next ten years I hope to be preventing clocks from breaking.

How do you do that? You extend the argument away from dealing simply with homelessness as an end in itself, as a thing in itself. You start working within the community, something that I have endevoured to apply much of my energies to.

Thris, our mutual friend will agree. Where did she go when she left The Big Issue? She went on, and we have talked about this, into the young community so that she can work in prevention. Preventing people falling. Preventing people at a last resort selling The Big Issue.

Homelessness does not create itself. It is created by a neglectful, unfulfilling, at times failing community. So the wise guy among us would try and spread their net to place homelessness within this bigger framework: communities in need.

Some years ago I was in the Highlands and Islands for a talk and I met a number of social enterprises who said that The Big Issue could work for them, and through them. To head off the problem of creating new people who can flock to cities and thereby become destitute there, because something has gone wrong for them in the community they have left.

Not one homeless person who needs to sell The Big Issue, and god bless them if they do, will be stopped from doing so because we are working with community groups to aid the spread and usefulness of the paper.

Is there a slight element, may I suggest that you might feel that we are encroaching into an area that you hold dear? If so I would suggest we talk about it.

Let me also add that from the very first, the very beginning of the Big Issue we have worked with community groups allowing them to sell The Big Issue; if we felt it helped. Of late there has not been much of it, but that will be changing. FairBridge Drake, Princes Trust, various schools. So nothing new there.

John Bird.