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Homeless - Hungry and Homeless in the UK

Updated on November 20, 2013

The homeless

Today, in the UK it is estimated that around 1 million people are homeless. It is often assumed by passers-by that they must be drug addicts, violent or alcoholics. I often see homeless people standing in all weathers in the street trying to sell "The Big Issue" to shoppers, the majority of which walk by. For anyone not familiar with the concept of The Big Issue, let me explain it.

The Big Issue - How it works

The Big Issue is a charity which produces a fortnightly magazine that is published and is available to the public to buy from authorised vendors. An authorised vendor is either a homeless person or is in vulnerable housing, and who has undergone checks to prove that they are indeed homeless or vulnerably housed. The vendors are vetted and have to sign a code of conduct, once they have satisfied the criteria required. They are issued with an authorised vendors badge and are given 5 free copies of The Big Issue to sell (10 copies if they are living in London) at a pitch which they are allocated. The magazine is sold for £2 per copy and they can buy further supplies for £1. The scheme was set up to help homeless people help themselves, build confidence and self-esteem, and provide them with a small income. Many vendors are successful, and by selling the magazine, can help them to make positive changes in their lives. Authorised vendors are given help and advice on housing, financial independence, health and aspirations.

The Big Issue - logo.
The Big Issue - logo.

Robert's Story

When I lived in Scotland, I shopped at a local supermarket in the village. I got to know Robert, whom I always bought my copy of The Big Issue from. He was a lovely man, with a cheery disposition and always courteous and chatty. We always spent time chatting, before I had to dash off to unpack the shopping and pick the kids up on the school run. Robert was in his forties, well-spoken and never, ever complained, though he had every reason to. One day we got talking, and his story reduced me to tears. It made me realise that I should be grateful for what I have and stop moaning about trivial little things, when people like him were living rough and struggling to survive each day.

As he spoke, he told me that he had been married for nearly 20 years, and that the marriage had not been a happy one. He and his wife decided to separate and eventually divorce, and he moved out of the family home and into a bedsit. His ex-wife remained in their marital home with their two sons, who at the time were aged 14 and 10.

A few months later, Robert was made redundant from his job as a welder. Prior to this, he had been paying rent to his landlord, making monthly alimony payments to his ex-wife, and seeing his sons every other weekend. Losing his job was a major blow, he could no longer afford to pay the monthly maintainence payments for his children, and he fell into arrears on the rent payments. He was out looking for a job one afternoon, and returned to find an eviction notice had been posted on his door.

One week later, in mid-November 2000 he found himself on the streets with nowhere to go and no money. He slept in doorways and alleyways on the streets of Glasgow. During the summer of 2002, he found out about The Big Issue and contacted them. He passed the necessary checks and was authorised to sell the magazine. He found new confidence, and rather than begging for food, he was making enough money to feed himself each week. Around a year later, he found a small flat with the help of the charity, he was also offered a job in a food processing plant which he accepted. During the time that he had become homeless, he never had any contact with his children. When I asked him why, he said that he was ashamed of what he had become and didn't want his sons to see him this way. I never did see Robert again after that day and often wonder if he did ever get in touch with his sons, whom he always spoke about with great affection. I hope so, and hope his life worked out. If he was my Dad, I would be very proud of him and not ashamed as he seemed to think his family would have been.

Fine line

Homelessness can happen to anyone at any time. It only takes one tragedy to strike and our lives can take a downward spiral. I vowed that I would never walk by my local Big Issue Vendor, as £2 could be the difference in whether someone will eat that day or not.

A Big Issue vendor
A Big Issue vendor

Charities which help the homeless

Shelter -

Crisis - (set up to help single homeless people)

Centrepoint -

Emmaus UK -

Crash -

Big Issue -

Barnardos -

The Salvation Army -

What we can do to help our homeless

Help for the homeless can be given in many ways:




Volunteer your time

Buy the Big Issue

Homeless Shelters

There are homeless shelters throughout the UK, but many more are needed. Hundreds of buildings lie empty and could be put to good use in my opinion. It's difficult for homeless people to make a fresh start, get into employment, generally look after themselves while sleeping rough. Everyone deserves a chance in life, and the stigma attached to homelessness is unfair and often unjust. The next time you see a homeless person, think about how easy it would be to fall into this trap if life dealt you a cruel hand.


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    • Pamela Bush profile image

      howtopam 4 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Thank you for responding.


      How To Pam

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 4 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Thank you so much for your valuable comments. It is true that we are all only a paycheck away from becoming homeless. I am glad that life worked out differently for you. I believe also that everything in life happens for a reason and I am glad that you got through it. God bless.

    • Pamela Bush profile image

      howtopam 4 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      Hi Jacqui2011

      I am Floyd and my wife Pamela and I author HOW TO PAM here on HubPages. As I am surfing some hubs today I came across yours while checking hubs on country living. Your Country Living hub led me to this article on homelessness and it brought back some vivid memories so I thought that I would comment. Good information in your article. I was homeless for about a year and a half not too long ago. Always being a high wage earner and deep in debt I was not prepared to suddenly suffer a nerve condition health problem where suddenly I lost the use of my left arm. Unable to collect Workers Compensation because I could not prove my health condition was work related I had no income. Unable to pay my bills my wife at the time decided to leave me and I had no where to go. I put everything that I absolutely needed in a duffle bag and headed for the inner city. Scared but determined to survive quickly found my way around the shelters with the aid of the homeless community. After a few weeks I became much less anxious and comfortable among my comrades - they were an interesting group who I quickly grew to enjoy the company of. I soon got a low paying job that I could do with my disability and continued to live within the homeless community at the downtown shelter. I found a sense of comfort among my new neighborhood brothers and sisters. I had no real desire to leave them. They looked up to me and I respected them. I stayed longer than I needed to. Though life is much different for me a few years later I have no fear of returning to the streets if I ever need to. I believe that the experience happened in my life for a reason - I believe it made me a better person. I thank God for all He has given me.



    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      @ Textured Ideas - Thanks for taking the time to read and vote up. As you say, it could happen to any of us at any time. Especially in these times when jobs are hard to come by and hard to keep. Best wishes.

    • profile image

      Textured Ideas 6 years ago

      A very touching story and you're very right, becoming homeless could happen to any of us at any time and we shouldn't take safety for granted. There should definitely be more done to help the homeless. I always like those programmes such as 'Secret Millionaire' who help people like this. All most people need is a listening ear and some help. It's surprising how just a little bit of help can dramatically change someone's life. Great hub for making people more aware of the issue. Voted up!

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      I agree case1worker, by selling the big issue it gives the homeless people some confidence and self-esteem back.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image

      CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      \the Big issue is at least a legitimate way for people to raise funds rather than trying to beg and being moved on.

      By the way, I am from Leicester too"!

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Hi seeker7, thanks for your comments. I'm with you on this one, I agree that they are brave people and I never walk buy anyone selling the Big Issue. A couple of pounds can really make the difference in whether or not they can afford to eat that day.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      There are so many stories around like Robert's, it is very sad and a poor reflection on our society. I never pass any of the vendors selling the Big Issue without buying a copy of the mag from them. Some of the nicest people I have met have been these brave souls selling this magazine. Here's hoping and wishing that things will turn good for them all. Many thanks for this excellent and thought provoking hub.

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      I totally agree Robephiles, people do tend to disconnect themselves from the issue of homelessness. Everyone is just one step away from being homeless if something in life goes wrong, just like Robert. Thanks for commenting.

    • Robephiles profile image

      Robephiles 6 years ago

      It is really true that anybody could end up homeless if something bad happens and they don't have someone to help them. People really are too disconnected from that. In the Unitedd States we often have too great a disconnect from this issue and I imagine it is the same in every developed country in the world.

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 6 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      I agree, as a society we should do more to help. It annoys me that there are so many buildings in the city where I live that are empty which could be used as shelters or drop in centres. Hopefully things will improve.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      It is sad that there are so many homeless people in the developed world, and that we do so little to help them out. We don't provide them with housing, jobs, consistent attention or give them opportunities to feel good about themselves. They are an invisible society within our midst.