I sat down at the long ‘production table’ looking down at the folder in my hand, and tried to follow the steps written down on the piece of paper infront of me. As Judy sitting next to me started talking to another lady about her story, I tried to think of what it might feel like to know that you have nowhere else to go apart from the street, no belongings and no purpose in life. I tried to imagine it and failed – because you can’t really know what it’s like unless you’ve been homeless and out on the streets on a cold and dark night.
The statistics are currently grim, did you know:
– 46,000 Australian women are homeless every night
– 40% of homeless people living in shelters are women
It is with these numbers that organisations like The Big Issue and their Women’s Subscription Enterprise (launched in 2010 and currently operating in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide) are attempting to make a difference – by seeing the person behind the number and providing a safe haven and income for homeless women.
The Big Issue is often visible on our streets sold at street corners and around busy shopping malls. Since it’s inception in 1996, eight million copies have been sold and the organisation provides income, training, a safe place for marginalised members of society and fosters close connections with community.
The Big Issue magazine provides employment to hundreds of homeless and disadvantaged people each year, the vendors are predominantly men as women are considered at risk especially if they are fleeing from domestic violence. The Women’s Subscription Enterprise was established to give women work opportunities that didn’t rely on selling on the streets, taking off pressure on women to make sales by creating a women’s-only space, providing a safe and secure environment.
The Big Shift hosted by Lisa Wilkinson (presenter at Channel Nine), saw men and women of all ages experience what it’s like to work at The Big Issue as the participants packed over 1,000 magazines. This was followed by a panel featuring inspirational speakers such as Marita Cheng (2012 Australian of the Year), Moya Dodd (FIFA Executive Committee member) and Louise Walsh (CEO Philanthropy Australia) who talked about when and how The Big Shift happened in their lives and how one idea can have a huge impact on the lives of thousands.
Coming away from the evening, I was inspired by the following quotes:
1. Being different should not be a fear and should never hold you back – Moya Dodd on growing up in the 70s to an Asian mother and Australian father.
2. You have to create your own opportunities instead of waiting for the right one to appear – Louise Walsh on creating her career opportunities.
3. You have to work really really hard to achieve success – Marita Cheng.
What have you done lately that’s left you inspired to make a difference in someone’s life?
The Big Issue is an independent, not-for-profit social enterprise that develops solutions to help homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people positively change their lives. 100 subscriptions helps one disadvantaged woman to change her life by providing her with a shift. Visit The Big Issue to find out how you can help support this organisation.