Dave Wotherspoon was 28 years-old when he found himself homeless on the streets of Manchester. Dave joined the Royal Engineers aged 16 and served in the Corps for 8 years before leaving for family reasons. A challenging home life meant that Dave withdrew from family and friends and ended up rough sleeping, staying in hostels, squats and even sleeping under piers.
By chance, when believing he had no options left to him, he saw an old school friend who suggested he should sell the Big Issue. He did just that, and found he was so good at it that he earned enough money to get himself off the streets and begin to rebuild his life. However, rebuilding the life skills he needed to work towards his aspirations proved difficult with little or no guidance available in a very fragmented system.
In the 20 years since Dave first sold the Big Issue he has held various jobs, been homeless once more, sold the Big Issue for a second time (amounting to a total of 12 years), secured a home, raised his children, and reached a point in life where reflection has allowed him to consider what options the 28 year-old Dave would have liked. His experiences have given him insight into what are realistic solutions for the genuinely homeless, and a perspective on the structure of homeless street papers.
There are 120 street paper titles in 40 countries world-wide. With roots in the USA. socio-political groups found a way to publish their ideas and opinions and the homeless could avoid falling foul of begging and panhandling laws. The structure of street papers is usually based on the model of vendors buy publications and sell them on to the general public at a profit.
Support for mental health, physical health, financial problems, employment opportunities and housing is often offered through signposting to third parties but the vendor has to ultimately be responsible for their own progress and financial security. This may not seem like an unreasonable expectation but it is important to take into consideration the reasons people become homeless in the first place; it’s not a preferential option for anyone.
StreetWise has been devised with this in mind; a charitable street paper system which, through a structured programme offered to homeless individuals, enables them to get well, become solvent, trained or educated, access employment, and become re-housed. In short, StreetWise is a 21st Century street paper which puts the homeless at the centre of its structure and makes them participants, rather than recipients.