A street cat named Bob joined around 300 walkers taking part in The Big Night Walk to raise money for The Big Issue Foundation last Friday.
The 20kilometre walk, now in its fifth year, allowed walkers and vendors to walk together in the Big Issue Foundation’s flagship fundraiser which has so far raised more than £340,000.
Ex-Big Issue vendor James Bowen made a media splash with the publication of A Street Cat Named Bob which chronicled his life on the streets with his uplifting friendship with his pet cat.
The inseparable twosome have a huge fan following – in fact some of the walkers on the night were there only to catch a glimpse of the famous feline and his human friend.
Resh Haranji, from North London, took part in the night walk with her friends and explained the importance of raising awareness of homelessness and seeing homeless people ‘as human beings’.
Resh is part of a fan group called The Streetcats, who were brought together by their love of James and his cat Bob and have raised £800 for the Big Issue Foundation.
She said: “They were helped by The Big Issue which is why we are doing it – as a tribute to them and it’s a lovely cause to raise awareness of homeless people.”
This year the walk included stops to allow walkers to meet vendors and hear their experiences.
William, a vendor based on Neal Street, described his experience of selling the magazine.
He said: “I do about 18 to 20 a day. A couple of weeks ago it took me from 7 in the morning to 9 o’clock in the morning to sell 10.”
The foundation is established to help homeless people to help themselves – all vendors buy the magazines for £1.25 which they sell on for £2.50.
William joined The Big Issue after he moved to London from Glasgow and after sleeping rough on the streets for years he is now settled in his own home.
William joins the network of more than 2,500 vendors in the UK – during the first stop at Shoreditch Town Hall, walkers met Kevin who sells on Devonshire Road and Paul who sells on Fenchurch Street.
With more than 100 people approaching the foundation every week, Paul told me about what it’s done for him.
He said: “When you wind up homeless on the street you wind up really suspicious of people and their motives.
“The Big Issue forces you to have that conversation with people and over time it just reestablishes your self confidence.”
Kevin, who has suffered through drug addiction, the loss of his girlfriend, and health issues, viewed the help from The Big Issue differently.
He said: “It’s just built my confidence up, gets me out, it’s given me structure. The money is a bonus but I would do it without because I like talking to people.
“It’s been great for my confidence.”
Both vendors agreed that unexpected generosity from the public had on occasions moved them to tears.
Paul described a time when a woman had offered to buy his shopping in Tesco.
He said: “For me it is not about transactions it about connections you find with somebody. There are some really beautiful people out there.”
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