Our Vendors 

INSP: ‘most important social movement in the world’

Wed, Feb 19, 2014

Based in Glasgow, Scotland, the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), supports 122 street papers and 28,000 vendors around the world. INSP celebrates its 20th year in 2014.

INSP Vendor WeekIn these two decades, INSP’s members now have a combined global audience of 6 million; their 28,000 vendors have earned over $40 million (USD) this year. Vendors’ stories show the power of the street paper movement to save lives and alter public views on homelessness.

Vendor and artist Patrick Jansen, who sells fiftyfifty in Dusseldorf, Germany, began using heroin after problems at home. His drug use led to homelessness.

Subsequently he was diagnosed with HIV. Selling street papers has given him a goal and helped him to come to terms with his diagnosis and move forwards again, particularly with fiftyfifty’s unique arts projects.

Emma Folan, a vendor of The Big Issue in the North, based in the north of England, has learning difficulties and suffered depression for years after getting out of a violent relationship.

She said: “Selling The Big Issue in the North helps with my mental health issues. It gives me a reason to get out of bed. If I didn’t have this to motivate me I’d just be sitting at home feeling sorry for myself.”

Emma says homelessness is often stigmatized but vendors like herself are helping to change the public’s perceptions. “I think some people believe that all street vendors suffer from alcohol and drug addiction but that’s not true. Anybody can fall on hard times. The Big Issue in the North helps the vulnerable too,” she said.

Indeed, food banks are rapidly growing in all parts of the world, with food rations now being stretched to breaking point as little money is being invested into these life-saving programs. It is often estimated that most people are just two pay checks away from homelessness.

Reginald Black, a homeless man in Washington DC, can also testify to more people living on the edge.

Reginald began selling Street Sense in 2008. Since then he has also become involved in contributing poetry and prose, as well as learning journalistic techniques and design skills from the Street Sense staff. But above all he considers himself an advocate for the homeless, and Street Sense helps him do this.

Patrick, Emma, Reginald say the power to make a difference to their lives now lies with the reader. Stop and talk to your local vendor; buy a copy and become part of the most important social movement in the world.

By Callum McSorley

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