The International Network of Street Papers (INSP) has warned that violence against homeless people is a global problem which too often results in death.
The charity issued the statement in response to the murders of two Big Issue vendors in the city centre of Birmingham [England] on Friday. Wayne Lee Busst (32) and Ian Watson-Gladwish (31) were selling The Big Issue in a busy shopping street when, just before 6pm, they were both stabbed to death.
INSP strongly condemns these tragic, senseless murders and, on behalf of street paper colleagues worldwide, sends out its condolences to the families and friends of the victims. The Big Issue is one of 122 street papers in 40 countries that make up the INSP network.
The Big Issue’s founder John Bird expressed his grief in a statement on the street paper’s website: “This awful crime, perpetrated against two hard working, mild mannered men, only serves to illustrate the extreme vulnerability of people who live and work on the streets.”
Unfortunately, these tragic murders are not isolated cases. With 14,000 vendors on the streets of 600 cities at any one time, INSP street papers report violent incidents on a regular basis. Serious assaults -sometimes resulting in death- are a real risk for too many vendors.
In the US, the National Coalition for the Homeless has been campaigning on the issue of violence against homeless citizens for years. In 2009 and 2010, over a dozen INSP street papers in the US ran reports on hate crimes against homeless people. They found that between 1999 and 2010 over 1,000 ‘bias-motivated’ attacks were committed against the homeless in the US; 291 of these attacks were homicides.
In Brazil, INSP street paper Aurora de Rua reported that 62 homeless people were murdered in various states in just one year. According to the paper, little progress has been made in the police investigations for most of these cases.
INSP’s Executive Director Lisa Maclean said: “We condemn every form of violence against homeless people in the strongest possible way. These recent murders, and all the ones before, remind us again just how dangerous life on the streets can be.”
“Street papers are a stepping stone to a life away from homelessness. Our vendors have chosen to help themselves through dignified employment. They deserve to work without abuse, the risk of assault or even death, like everyone else.”
During the upcoming International Street Paper Vendor Week (4-10 February), INSP will celebrate the achievements of its vendors and remember Wayne and Ian and all street paper vendors who have lost their lives on the job.