Big issue needs a little support

IT bills itself as the magazine that helps people help themselves, but The Big Issue is struggling to get a foothold in Queanbeyan and is searching for a local business to help out.

The magazine is an independent, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supporting and creating job opportunities for homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. Vendors buy a copy of the magazine from a distributor- usually a local, community-minded business- for $3, and then sell it in the community for $6.

It brings them a sense of purpose and self-esteem, as well as a little bit of money. But with no local business so far willing to act as a distributor of the magazine, local disadvantaged people are missing out on a potential leg up in life.

Queanbeyan man and The Big Issue vendor Peter Thorley has been hopping the border to Canberra to purchase copies of the magazine, because no Queanbeyan business has put themselves forward as a distributor yet, although the organisation has contacted all the major charity stores in town.

"I'm lucky because I have a car and can get across to Canberra, although it's still expensive for me to do so, but most people can't do that," he said.

Mr Thorley suffers from depression, and turned to the Big Issue several years ago while living in Sydney.

"I was in Sydney and I was doing it tough and didn't know what to do, and I needed money. And someone introduced be to the Big Issue, and basically that's what I did.

"You'd book a pitch for four hours on George St, or Pitt St, or Railway Square and away you'd go.

"But we're hitting a brick wall at the moment. We can't get the community to step forward and say 'let's help these people'."

Mr Thorley and local vendor support manager Ron Jackson are after a Queanbeyan business to volunteer to be a distribution point for vendors. 

A box of magazines would be dropped off to that business each fortnight at no cost, and then vendors come in to purchase magazines to sell around Queanbeyan. 

The distributor only has to record the vendors Big Issue ID number, the number of magazines purchased, and hold on to the money until it's picked up the next fortnight.

And Mr Thorley said it can make a big difference to the lives of local people struggling with various kinds of disadvantage.

"There's a lot of people in the community here that it could provide an outlet for, something to do. It's a little bit of money- not big money- but it makes a big difference. And it builds self esteem.

"In Sydney people got to know me and they'd say 'Hi Pete, how you going?' and they'd give me a $5 tip or say 'do you want a cup of coffee?' or whatever, because they have respect that you're standing there. You're not getting paid by the hour or anything, and you're working in all kinds of weather," he said.

To volunteer as a distributor of The Big Issue, phone vendor support manager Ron Jackson on 0448 476 184.

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