The Big Issue magazine is transforming the lives of the homeless people who sell it on the streets, according to research by consumer specialists at Liverpool John Moores University.
Some 70 Big Issue sellers - practically all those in Liverpool - took part in the survey by the Centre for Consumer Education and Research. It was found that only 20 per cent of Big Issue sellers suffered serious levels of mental distress, compared with 80 per cent of non-vendors. Some sellers have become so settled that they have found partners with whom they plan to share their lives once they obtain secure, independent accommodation.
According to the report, Helping the Homeless to Help themselves: the Big Issue, the outlook of non-vendors is "virtually total despair, hopelessness and fatalism" while vendors are "much more optimistic about their futures, especially the possibility of obtaining permanent accommodation, a decent job, and a 'normal' life". Some 80 per cent have started to question the image which had been imposed on them by public attitudes and Government policies - that they are lazy drop-outs whose live consist of begging, drinking and drug abuse.
The majority of Big Issue sellers are less dependent or totally non-dependent on alcohol and drugs than in their pre-Big Issue days. Some 25 per cent claimed to have stopped drinking altogether, and of those who had abused drugs previously, 40 per cent claimed they had cut down, 30 per cent claimed they had moved from hard to soft drugs, and 15 per cent said they had stopped completely.