Our Vendors 

Meet the world’s most INSPiring workforce

Wed, Feb 13, 2013

With the financial crisis still wreaking havoc on the world’s economies and job markets, the fact that anyone can become homeless – irrespective of age, nationality or social status– is becoming ever more apparent, as is the vital importance of street papers.

For many people in poverty or without a home, selling a street paper can offer a lifeline and act as a stepping stone to greater things. Whether they are on the streets of Glasgow, Cape Town, Melbourne or Milan: every single street paper vendor is part of a global family that shares in a desire to lift themselves out of poverty.

More than 28,000 vendors each year work towards this goal by selling their local street paper. The International Network of Street Papers (INSP) unites over 120 of these publications in more than 600 towns and cities around the world.

From its base in Scotland, INSP helps its members with start-up and editorial support, staff and vendor training, funding, networking and campaigns to raise awareness of their work.

The stories of our vendors are a testament to the strength and effectiveness of the street paper model, which has spread across 40 countries on six continents and earns vendors over $40 million per year.

“I saw many bad things on the streets but I also met people who, like me, wanted to change their lives,” says Brazilian vendor Nelson Carvalho, whose drug addiction led to him becoming homeless.

For Nelson, selling Aurora du Rua on the streets of Salvador meant more than earning an income: “I have the opportunity to share my experiences with others and show them that people on the streets are human like everyone else.”

Vendors like Nelson are proud to sell the publications. He explains: “Street papers portray people living on the street with dignity and humanity and change the way society sees them.”

His South African colleague Erica Phillips also believes street papers change people’s perspectives on homelessness. She sold The Big Issue South Africa for seven years after being forced to quit her job when her eyesight deteriorated.

“I’ve gained so much and found people that have really supported me. They notice my determination and outgoing personality. I’m fortunate to have many customers who see me not just as a vendor but as a friend.”

Without the street paper Erica says she could never have financed her own business, which she recently started. “I hate to think where I would be without this job. I would probably have given up, but it helped me see that there’s hope.”

For Charles Yost, a vendor in Portland, USA, selling Street Roots has helped him overcome a lifetime of alcohol addiction: “It got to a point where I was either going to get drunk or sell papers. It’s something I can look forward to. I get to talk to a lot of people. It keeps me out of isolation.”

Selling Norwegian street paper Megafon completely transformed the life of Johnny Larssen, who swapped a daily reality of drugs and violence for a dignified job. “When you work as a street paper vendor, you need to look people in the eye, share a laugh, and care about others. If you would have met me few years ago, you would have never believed that I could do this.”

For The Big Issue Australia vendor Tapiwa Chemhere, who escaped a life of violence and political oppression in Zimbabwe, it is the customers who inspire him: “If you smile and talk to me, it makes my day. I feel very encouraged. I thank all my customers for helping me.”

Worldwide, street papers have helped change more than 250,000 thousand lives for the better. As the INSP network continues to expand, it is hoped that vendors’ stories will inspire others to join the movement.

For all the vendors that street papers support, it is the readers who help make the difference. So wherever you go in the world: buy your local street paper.
The change is in your pocket.

Written by Laura Smith,
Internatinoal Network of Street Papers

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