[A too-often hidden problem | 1 of 46,000 homeless women and girls in Australia every night]
Sometimes you see something so simple you know it's taken a huge amount of effort to get right.
Last Monday I got to experience just such a simple idea from The Big Issue and was humbled to be able to be a very small part of it.
But before we get to the idea, let's start with the intensely sobering fact that every night in Australia there are estimated to be 46,000 women homeless. And most of those 46,000 tend to be hidden from view (ever wonder why you rarely see a homeless woman sleeping rough?): in cars, couch-surfing, in shelters or hidden away from sight in the cities and towns of Australia to try and avoid the greater chance they have of receiving physical abuse than homeless men.
There's so many things wrong with this situation it's hard to know where to start.
Then if you add in the fact that you also rarely see women selling The Big Issue - another great and simple idea that does so much to address homelessness around the world - you start to see the issue that the simple idea I witnessed last Monday sets out to solve.
The issue? Lot's of homeless women unable to sell The Big Issue on the streets in Australia because they fear for their safety. I'd never thought too hard about it before to be honest, but, now it's been pointed out to me, it seems so ridiculously obvious I can't believe I missed it.
And now we come to the idea to try and fix it.
Create a subscription service for The Big Issue run by homeless women. So ridiculously simple! The women get to work in a safe environment sending out Big Issues and also have opportunities to meet and be supported by others in a similar situation. A really pragmatic solution to the problem it sets out to address.
Set-up in 2010 and called The Women's Subscription Enterprise, it's now operating in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide and once a year they hold The Big Shift, which is what I got to go to last Monday. There, with over 150 other Sydney-siders, I got so see how it all works and met some of the women who are helping themselves out of homelessness through their involvement with it.
I was inspired to get myself a subscription on the spot and would encourage you to do the same. You get to help solve a real problem and get a great magazine into the bargain too. And for every 100 subscriptions the get, another homeless woman gets a job.
There's only one real downside - getting a subscription might mean you no longer get to buy The Big Issue from your usual seller.
But like everything to do with this idea, it's been thought through too. When I pointed out this potential problem, I was met with a, dare I say it, simple answer.
"You may not get to buy a magazine from him as often, but there's nothing to stop you saying 'hi' and asking how he's going. They get ignored by so many people every day, that each conversation they do have gives them a real lift. And that's often just as important to them as the $3 they get for selling you a magazine.."
Simple. Powerful. Inspiring. Isn't it about time you helped make this idea grow?