24 January 2015

Cape Town athlete runs 400km for The Big Issue South Africa

By Laura Smith

During Brandon Finn’s punishing 400km run from Johannesburg to Hattingspruit in the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal, the first hour on day eight was the toughest.

His lungs burned with each breath, his legs felt like lead and a dull pain throbbed through his knees, quads and calves. But he kept going, spurred on by his desire to retrace the 10-day march home that 7,000 mineworkers and their families undertook during the Anglo-Boer War in 1899.

Knowing his committed father was several metres behind him, driving in first gear as he had done for the last 280 miles, also helped motivate the urban geographer/long-distance runner.

But what really helped him push through the pain barrier was knowing that, with every step, he was raising more and more money for The Big Issue South Africa.

As his route took him through the beautiful Laing's Neck pass, on a welcome downhill 5km stretch, the 24-year-old found the going a little easier. By day 10, he was flying towards the finish line at the old mining town of Hattingspruit. 

When his epic run finally came to an end on 10 January, Brandon had raised over R15,500 (£900/ $1,300 / €1,200)  for The Big Issue South Africa. After he enjoyed a wave of publicity in the South African press, that total has now risen to well over R19,000. 

“It’s a little known incident in South African history, so I thought running the same route was a good way to commemorate it,” says Brandon.

In 1899, 7,000 Zulu mineworkers and their families wanted to escape Boer War hostilities in Johanneburg to return to their homes in Hattingspruit, Kwazulu-Natal.

The trains had been commandeered, and so their only way to reach their homes, 400km away, was by foot.

They covered the distance over the course of 10 days and all survived to reach home.

“In South Africa today, 115 years on since the march and 21 years since the end of apartheid, many social and economic disparities and inequalities that existed in 1899 still exist,” adds Brandon.

“I think it’s really important to recognise that aspect of history has prominent effects on the way in which our contemporary South Africa is taking shape years after apartheid.”

The money Brandon has raised will be funnelled into The Big Issue South Africa’s job-creation and social-development programme, which helps its vendors obtain new skills, connections and the confidence to secure full-time employment.

“I love the work that The Big Issue does and its vendors are very prominent around Cape Town,” says Brandon, who has bought his copy of the street paper from the same vendor, a man called Goodman, ever since he moved to Cape Town from Pretoria six years ago.

“The Big Issue is such an innovative organisation, especially in South Africa where homelessness and unemployment are so prevalent and there’s a vast mismatch of inequality that is so deeply entrenched," he adds.

“Any initiative that is tackling these issues is definitely worth running 400km for.”

Janna Joseph, editor of The Big Issue South Africa, added: "We were thrilled when Brandon pitched his idea to us, and we are even more thrilled now that he’s pulled the whole thing off, raising about R19,000 for The Big Issue in the process.

"It’s amazing how much one person can accomplish with determination and the right attitude – just like our vendors, who work so hard to support themselves and their families each month. These are people who will benefit from Brandon’s efforts, through our skills-development workshops and job-creation programme."

Donations are still open and can be made at www.expedition-imashi.com.

23 January 2015

Boston student crowdfunds to secure Homes for the Homeless

A Harvard University student believes crowdfunding could be an answer to helping homeless people in Boston find housing and employment.

Inspired by his year volunteering at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, pre-med student Showly Nicholson created his innovative program Homes for the Homeless on the crowdfunding website Gofundme.com in May 2013.

Homes for the Homeless founder Showly Nicholson. Zengzheng Wang
Homes for the Homeless supports homeless individuals by raising $2,000 per person to cover three months’ shelter, transportation and food, giving them the time and space to save money, focus on maintaining a steady income and apply for work.

"I saw that it takes, minimum, about a year of being on a waiting list to get out of homelessness through government aid," explained Showly.

"You don't have a home address, and if you're lucky enough to stay in a shelter the night before, you might not be well rested or have reliable transportation…all things that often contribute to preventing one from getting a job, or even losing a job."

Showly set out to help one man in particular who frequented the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and has been homeless for after losing his job as an accountant.

While searching for a room to rent through sites such as Craigslist and Padmapper, and working in conjunction with the Home Start organization, Nicholson encountered an upsetting truth.

"As soon as we mention that he is homeless, there is no response," he said.

"We have tried being transparent, but it is almost impossible [to find housing] that way… the only difference between him and others finding housing is his current homelessness."

Homes for the Homeless on crowd funding site Gofundme.com
The pair have experienced successes and failure so far, but the generosity expressed by the public through online donations - which now totals nearly $2,500 - have humbled them both.

"I could tell he was sceptical at first, but at this point…we just have to get the timing right, and hope he gets the job when we get the housing," said Showly, who frequently tells his client, "Just don't lose hope."
To follow the progress of Homes for the Homeless or make a donation, visit gofundme.com/homes4thehomeless.

This is a summary of an original article written by Mia Germain for Spare Change News. INSP members who would like to republish this article can download it here.

Philadelphia pizzeria feeds homeless one slice at a time

By Laura Smith

A dollar-a-slice pizza shop in Philadelphia has encouraged its customers to give over 9,000 free slices of pizza to the homeless.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza owner, Mason Wartman, started up a Pay It Forward scheme in March 2013 after a customer asked if they could buy an extra slice for someone in need. 

Since then, Rosa's has let customers pre-pay for a slice of pizza, which a homeless person can then order to take away or eat in store.

Mason says Rosa's now serves around 40 homeless people every day, and that his customers have generously bought close to 9,500 pizza slices in the past 10 months.

"My customers love the opportunity to help out," the 27-year-old told INSP. 

"The homeless people really use the program as a flexible way to get access to food. One Monday, a homeless customer said that because we were closed on a Sunday, they hadn’t ate anything since Saturday. That blew my mind."

After his first customer asked to have an extra slice of pizza given to the hungry, Mason says he wrote a smiley face on a Post-It note and stuck it up on one of the walls of his shop.

Today, a sea of neon Post-Its bearing messages from people who have done the same are plastered all over Rosa's.

Among them are heartfelt messages from those who have come in for a free slice of pizza.

A message written on a paper plate by Rob H, a homeless veteran who often visits Rosa's, reads: "God bless you, because of you I ate off this plate. It's the only thing I ate all day. I am a homeless veteran and get treated rudely when I ask for help. Rosa's treats me with respect."

Another homeless customer writes: "I've been homeless in Philly for six years and I'm so happy to see people coming together and really making a difference in the community. Rosa's is a great start to changing the way homeless people are treated. God bless you all."

While Mason didn't necessarily set out to feed roughly 1% of Philadelphia's homeless every day, the business owner is thrilled at what Rosa's Pay It Forward pizza scheme has achieved.
Glen models his new Rosa's sweatshirt.

"Homelessness is a visible pervasive problem in Philadelphia," adds Mason. "It’s important for Rosa’s to be extremely good at something and use this to improve the community. Feeding the homeless like we do is the best way we can use our talents as a company."

As well as providing homeless people with some comfort food, Rosa's is now clothing them too and pointing them in the direction of homeless services.

Mason has started selling t-shirts with the help of clothing company, Rush Order Tees, and donates 50% - the equivalent of seven slices of pizza - for every sale.

Also on offer are sweatshirts. For every one purchased, another sweatshirt is donated to the homeless and has a large tag sewn on the inside that details homeless resources in the city.

Mason explains: "On the inside of the sweatshirt there is a tag of information the homeless person can use: phone numbers and locations for shelters, meals and computer classes. Hopefully this will encourage the homeless person to structure their day productively, acquire durable skills and improve their lives.

"It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve worked on."

You can find out more by visiting the Rosa's Fresh Pizza Facebook page

21 January 2015

Top names join INSP #VendorWeek Big Sell

The #VendorWeek Big Sell is gaining momentum as big names sign up for the fundraising event at the heart of INSP’s #VendorWeek celebrations.

From 2-8 February, street papers in the UK, Australia, America, Denmark, Switzerland and Greece will hold guest vendor events as part of the #VendorWeek Big Sell.

In the UK, guest vendors will sell The Big Issue and The Big Issue in the North for an hour in a sponsored challenge to raise money for INSP’s work.

Below is a full list of the 70 guest vendors who have signed up for the UK so far. We'll be adding sponsorship pages as they are available.

To sponsor your favourite guest vendor follow the links below. 

Don't know who to sponsor? Support the full team here.

2 February
Kay Burley, Presenter, Sky News
Fraser Nelson, Editor, The Spectator
James Brown, Founder, Loaded & Sabotage Times
Barry McIlheney, CEO, PPA
Paul McNamee, Editor, The Big Issue
Dominic Laurie, Presenter, BBC Business
Julian Lloyd-Evans, MD Advertising, Dennis Publishing

Ian McMillan, poet
Tony Stacey, CEO of social landlord Syorksha

Kate Green MP

3 February
Ian Munro, chief executive at New Charter Housing in Tameside
Bishop David Walker, Bishop of Manchester

4 February
Lauren Mayberry, Chvrches singer
Jim Murphy MP, Scottish Labour party leader
Twin Atlantic, band
Stuart Braithwaite, Mogwai
Robert Florence and Iain Connell, comedians and Burnistoun stars
Janey Godley, comedian
James Graham, Twilight Sad singer
Robin McAlpine, Common Weal 
Fiona Godsman, ‎CEO, Scottish Institute for Enterprise
Moray McDonald, MD, Weber Shandwick
Colin Stone, reporter STV
Andrew Bartlett CEO and Ruth Kelso Head of Learning & Development, Social Enterprise Direct
Christina McKelvie MSP, SNP
Ross McCulloch, Director, Third Sector Lab
Richard Walker, Editor, The Sunday Herald
Tony Carlin, Editor, The Evening Times
Marie Macklin, CEO, The Klin Group
Garry Sweeney, Gabriel Brodie in River City
Carmen Pieraccini,  Kelly-Marie Adams in River City
Adam Robertson, Dr Dan Hunter, River City
Scott Vickers, DC Will Cooper in River City

Nikki Simpson, PPA Scotland
Ewan Stark, Managing Director of S1

Allan Beswick, BBC Radio Manchester
Mike Burrows, bicycle designer
Dave Power, Chief Executive of City South Manchester Housing Trust
David Herne, Acting Director of Public Health, NHS Salford

Mark Burns-Williams, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner

Keith Mullin, The Farm
Ann O'Byrne, Labour Councillor
Dan Haggis, The Wombats

5 February
The View, band
Keith Brown MSP, SNP (Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities)
Neil Findlay MSP, Scottish Labour
Patricia Ferguson MSP, Scottish Labour
Jackie Baillie MSP, Scottish Labour
Josh Littlejohn, Director Social Bite
Stuart McMillan MSP, SNP
Mike MacKenzie MSP, SNP
Angus MacDonald MSP, SNP
Johann Lamont MSP, Scottish Labour
Sarah Boyack MSP, Scottish Labour
Siobhan McMahon MSP, Scottish Labour
Lloyd Anderson Director, British Council Scotland
Alison Johnstone MSP, Green
Rt Rev John Chalmers, Moderator, Church of Scotland
Robert Carroll, Managing Director of MOV8 Real Estate

Matthew Gardiner, CEO of THT

6 February
David Blunkett MP, Labour
Paul Blomfield MP, Labour

Harry Leslie Smith, survivor of the Great Depression, RAF veteran & activist

Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough

Alan Billings, PCC   

Stuart Andrew MP, Conservative
Hilary Benn MP, Labour

Maria Eagle MP, Labour

7 February
George Galloway MP

For more information about the #VendorWeek Big Sell, please contact Laura Dunlop: l.dunlop@street-papers.org / 0141 302 6554

Our vendors: Bertl Weißengruber - Kupfermuckn, Linz, Austria

Bertl, 63, is one of the original vendors of Austrian street paper Kupfermuckn. He started selling the street paper in Linz right after it was founded in 1996.

Born in Vienna, Bertl grew up living in a shanty town, like so many other bombed out families after the war, and went on to move around Austria as a vagabond.

“Vagrancy was still illegal in Austria until 1972 so I was sent to prison a few times,” he says.

“Finally I went to Hamburg and became a sailor for five years. I was in Leningrad, at the North Cape in Norway, in Shanghai and then in Caribbean until the shipping company went bust and I ended up in Linz, where I started a family.

"I have four children with my former wife, with all of whom I am still in good contact.”

Then one day he collapsed with a stroke. It was downhill from that moment on. His wife finally threw Bertl out and he was back living on the streets.

“I went to Arge, a non-profit association for the homeless. There I could move into a halfway house,” Bertl recalls.

“At the same time the street paper Kupfermuckn was founded, and because I only had a small limited income delivering a daily paper, so I started selling Kupfermuckn as well.

“It was tough at the beginning and the first day I only sold one copy. Slowly but surely, though, more people got to know me and since then it got better and better."

Eventually, Bertl found a regular spot in Ottensheim at a local farmers' market.

“I am even friends with many stall owners and customers, often exchanging the paper for food, but I also receive invitations to eat as well,” he says.

“The Ottensheim actor Ferry Öllinger already knows me as well. He stars in the TV Show 'Soko Kitzbühel'".

Now, Bertl is working hard to get his life back on track. He lives in a flat share for homeless people and is taking part in all events organised by the street paper. He is acting in a drama group and is a DJ at Radio Kupfermuckn.

Did you know INSP works with over 114 street papers around the world? You can help celebrate thousands of vendors, like Bertl, by joining our Thunderclap social media campaign during #VendorWeek 2015. Sign up here.