Our vendors: Jin-feng Shiu (The Big Issue Taiwan, Kaohsiung, Taiwan)

By Yu-ruei Lu, The Big Issue Taiwan

“I’ve been wanting to join The Big Issue since last year, but people weren’t quite supportive because of my health issues. I’ve got to make a living on my own, though. That’s why I started selling magazines this May and [I] plan to do it long-term,” Shiu says, with great determination in his voice.

Shiu first arrived at Shi-yuan-jiu [a homeless shelter whose name literally translates to: “The shelter where we cherish the destiny that brings us together”] two years ago. He was originally sent there because the employees at the Department of Social Welfare arranged for him to be provided with a temporary residence after he became unable to live independently as a result of his facial paralysis. Three months later, Shiu had a stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. He was already struggling before this: the stroke did nothing but add fuel to fire.

“My mother left the family soon after giving birth to me,” Shiu tells me, “and my father passed away when I was 5. I was raised by my grandmother, but I’ve been living alone since her death. I’ve always been treated with contempt and have lived a tough life…” Shiu trails off. He looks moved; it is possible that his poignant memories have awakened great emotion within him. Shiu worked as a plumber/electrician apprentice before he found work in parts processing at a bearing company in Taichung. Later, he worked as a parking security officer, which was his longest-lasting job. Afterwards followed a variety of manual labour, like house building and construction works.

Big Issue Taiwan vendor Jin-feng Shiu at Kaohsiung Mecical University. [Courtesy of The Big Issue Taiwan]

“I’m not sure if it was because I did little exercise [while working] at the parking lot—I never ate healthily—but illnesses struck shortly after I started manual labor,” Shiu recalls. “I had to visit a doctor for my facial palsy as well as quit my job. With no income, I eventually ran out of savings and had no place to live. I was left with no option but to become homeless. At that time, I’d go and take free bento [a single portion meal] from Shing-de Temple [where the founder set up a homeless shelter which gives away free meals and offers services to the homeless] or I’d eat leftovers that I was given. I was down-and-out and in poor health.”

Shiu says he has never had a stable home. He moved around a lot with his father for work during his childhood and the same goes for when he lived with his grandmother. Shiu has still not got a permanent home, despite the fact that the has reentered the workforce through his work for Big Issue Taiwan. Shi-yuan-jiu is arguably the most stable accommodation that Shiu has lived in. “Nevertheless, I can’t live here forever,” he says. “I really want to have a home and support myself with my own skills. I’m definitely going to continue selling magazines no matter what gets in the way!”

Shiu works very hard and would like to give a special thanks to the students at KMU for their support. They also help him to sort out the correct change when they buy copies of the magazine, as they are aware of his physical disability. “I want to be fully self-reliant in the future,” Shiu says, with determination in his voice once more as he leans on his crutches. “I’m hoping to save up for an electric car to make moving around easier.”

Translated by Sunny Tseng