The Big Issue Foundation aims to help Big Issue vendors by listening to the problems they face, identifying the support that is needed, and then working to enable each person to access the services that are most appropriate to their individual needs. Sometimes though we hear about a problem which doesn’t quite fit, where there isn’t a straightforward referral to be made or where the right advice seems to be missing. This is a time where a multi-agency approach can be beneficial not just to the vendors in question, but to try and improve the advice that is available to all.
In Bristol we have heard several reports from our Roma vendors of serious mistreatment by private landlords. The Voices group is a local forum for the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to raise awareness about their culture and look for solutions to any concerns. It is also attended by Councillors and other agencies who work with members of the communities in question including ourselves. After the landlord issues were raised with the group we hatched a plan to create new tenancy advice cards plus longer advice sheets in English and Romanian. These would give simple, basic instructions on tenants’ rights and who to contact when there’s a problem.
The Big Issue Foundation and SARI (Stand Against Racism and Inequality) worked closely together to identify the core issues and rights that needed to be on the cards. We had to make sure the text was legally watertight so we also sought advice from Avon and Bristol Law Centre and from Bristol City Council’s housing advice team. After a number of different drafts, design from the Council and translation into Romanian by our Big Issue volunteer Raluca, the cards and advice sheets were ready to go.
Bristol and Bath Service Broker Lewis Stewart, who worked on the project says that:
“The new tenancy materials are a fantastic example of us being able to collaborate with other services to improve the support available to our vendor base and beyond. I’m really proud of the way we’ve been able to use our links with different agencies to achieve this. We are all working in the same area and with some of the same people, and joining together has enabled us to create something which we couldn’t do on our own.”
The materials have been circulated to different homeless and housing services around the city and are a brand new resource not only for our own vendors but for anyone experiencing problems with a private tenancy – and for those who are starting a new tenancy and want to be aware of their rights.
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