The Big (Issue) Idea
You were begging for it
By some standards I am not an overtly charitable person.
I don't set fire to Oxfam shops or kick Labradors or anything like that but equally if a 'charitable' group deluges my post-box with empty envelopes hoping that they may be filled with silver and returned then they will be sadly disappointed.
And I'm not the first to dig deep in my pockets to give money to the needy on the streets.
It is not that I dislike charity I just believe that as a society we handle the situation wrongly. The more that individuals give the less the need for society to contribute.
I do not object to my taxes being used to help those less in need but do think that it should be a government or council body deciding on distribution to meet genuine needs rather than rely on the success or otherwise of money raising campaigns. Why should a charity with a cute mascot or one with a big budget get the healthiest return?
Inevitably, one set of losers from my stringent policy is street beggars. And there must be quite a few like me as begging has developed to become high tech to compete. Well, I mean high tech in the comparitive world of scruffy tramps.
Now, instead of asking for money in a menacing fashion homeless people can now sell a service, a magazine called The Big Issue. It even has its own website - I told you it was high tech.
Now I have often passed these one product newsstands and seen the vendor struggle to sell their magazine, despite some high profile guests and modern looks. The problem is image and the thought that it is cover to cover with dreary stories of despair, which it isn't.
But being me, I had an answer.
Once, when a scruffy lad asked if I wanted to swap one of my hard earned pounds for his magazines I initially politely declined and started to pass by, when an idea dawned on me.
I stopped and suggested he could either take the price of one magazine in exchange for said article or I could give him an idea to sell hundreds more.
Being a thoughtful, considerate man he mused over the offer for a second or two then demanded his pound.
Then announced in a slur "You're my best friend, you".
Alas, he had missed the opportunity of his lifetime.
In a charitable manner I am now going to give out the advice I had to anyone reading this article.
You see, it occurs to me that the street magazine sellers are missing out on one of the most populous parts of city society - the tourists. And my idea will make the magazine appealing to all of them.
Now, when you have recovered from the shock of such a simple idea and wondered why you hadn't thought of it you might start to consider the pitfalls.
Copyright is the major downside. Some companies make quite a profit out of selling 'disposable' maps of cities to tourists so they are hardly likely to allow their map to be used. And our national map supplier is not known for it's charitable work.
But this is where the idea still holds ground. Why not draw the city from scratch?
I know that would be a labour consuming process but hey, isn't that what these people do? Walk the streets all day?
The only other pitfall I can see is the image issue.
Do our town mayors want all the tourists approached by a scruffy urchin offering a rain sodden map and a promise that "You're my best mate, you"?
But to deny the scheme for this reason alone would be uncharitable, wouldn't it?
Author: Vince Poynter
Version 5.063 31 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005
The Big Issue magazine scheme was launched in London in 1991 to help rough sleepers move from street begging to selling a service and now costs £2.50 per copy with 50% of that price going directly to the vendor. Their website is www.bigissue.com