“We can tackle homelessness together”

By Callum McSorley

INSP’s 18th annual conference came to a close in Glasgow today, with delegates winding down and looking forward to the night’s celebration of INSP’s 20th anniversary and some traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing.

Over the three days of the conference, delegates shared ideas and experiences and faced challenges together. For many, this was the most valuable aspect of the week.

“When I’m working in Japan I sometimes feel like we’re struggling with the issue of homelessness by ourselves, but when I come here it feels like a global issue and we can tackle homelessness together,” said Kayoko Yakuwa, editor of the Big Issue Japan (pictured).

For Kayoko, the solidarity between street papers is a great boost, and was impressed by the hard graft of Greek street paper, Shedia, one of INSP’s newer members who formed to help the many people struggling in Greece following an economic collapse.

“It is a great networking place and we can encourage each other and share experiences. It encouraged me a lot, I feel delighted to be here,” she said.

Eric Guyader, founder and director of Aurora da Rua in Brazil agreed. “It’s very important for the international scene to meet and talk– the contents are important but even without the contents it’s good to speak about all the street papers, the difficulties and to share,” he said.

“To me it absolutely crucial to come to the conference because I do not have that kind of support in my city,” said Lana Shaw, founder and senior editor of Speak Up (USA).

“Here I find people doing what I’m doing, all over the world, and the issues are a little bit different but it’s good to talk. It’s wonderful to be able to bounce off ideas and engage with solutions and hear what the challenges are.”

Lana and Kayoko were both inspired by INSP’s Big Sell Off in the UK, for which celebrities and business leaders sell The Big Issue for a day to raise awareness and money for charity, and were keen to try the idea out in their own cities.

Another idea that impressed many this week was The Big Issue South Africa’s Smart Bib – modelled by Trudy Vlok (pictured left) – which lets vendors accept cashless payments and doubled sales of the paper when it was launched recently.

“I was completely blown away by Big Issue South Africa’s smart bib concept and how they’re using that. That’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen for a long time,” founding director of Real Change (USA) Tim Harris said.

Next year, the 19th annual conference will be held in Real Change’s home base of Seattle, Washington.

“There is a lot of experience within the street paper movement, we’re all the experts and we can learn from each other, and I think that’s the main idea we will be carrying into the Seattle conference,” Tim said.