I think this magazine is the best way for homeless and long-term unemployed people to get their life back on the rails. They're not begging, but working. They buy this weekly magazine for £1.25 and sell it for £2.50. The Big Issue insists you, as a customer, take the magazine and not just give them the money. Why? Because in this way the homeless learn how to trade and to run some sort of shop. Everyone has their own spot and they gain knowledge about how many customers they have averagely. In that way they can make decisions on how many magazines they have to buy for the week. Because of this magazine they have a purpose in life and a job. For many these are the first steps to get back on track in life.
When I'm in London I always buy a Big Issue magazine. Last time I bought one at Angel station (one of James and Bob's former spots) with Steve (see photo). The vendors are always very friendly and interested in where you come from. The magazine is nicely designed and it contains interesting news and culture articles. It's a duty I have to fulfill when I'm in London and by telling you about The Big Issue I hope you'll do the same. For you and me it's just the price of a coffee, but for them it means the world.
How to find a Big Issue vendor?
They're mostly near tube stations or in busy streets. You can recognise them by their red Big Issue jacket and they're always holding a magazine. In my experience there's more chance to get across a vendor on Mondays or Tuesdays (start of the week, new issue). Weekends are harder because it's possible some vendors are already sold out.
A hand up, not a hand out
Edit: Sad news reached me early July; Big Issue vendor Steve (see photo above) died while sleeping rough in Camden. He was 53 years old.