Know their place

Home means everything during the festive period – for vendors as much as anyone. We find out where four Big Issue North vendors will be spending their Christmas. Photos by Jason Lock

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Pitch: Brighouse

I’ve lived here now for about three months. It’s not Buckingham Palace but it’s tidy. I was living in a bedsit before, which was very small and noisy because there were people all around me. The bedsit was smaller than my new living room. And it only had a table, a bed and TV there. This place you can get lost in, it’s so big. I’ve got space for more things, like a wardrobe where I can hang my clothes. My favourite room in the house is the bedroom – it’s a lot more private and quiet than the front room because people can walk past the front of the house and look in.

What does home mean to me? Somewhere to live. Basically that’s it. This place isn’t at the current moment home as it should be home. It’s only me here. I don’t have the home atmosphere. It doesn’t feel like home here. It’s a place to hide away, so to speak – hide away from life in general. When I’m out selling the mag, I’m OK. I’m very streetwise. In here I keep myself to myself. But it can also get very lonely and depressing as well, being on my own.

I’m going to be here at Christmas. I don’t really put decorations up. I might get one of those small flashing trees. Christmas is the hardest time, because when you are alone, you don’t have your family around you and Christmas is a family-oriented time of year. Same with cooking. I love cooking but I don’t do a lot just for myself. I just have a lot of takeaways and sandwiches. I’ve got my partner. But he’ll be spending Christmas with his family. They’re going away for Christmas so I won’t see him.

Chris in his bedroom, his favourite room in the house
Chris in his bedroom, his favourite room in the house

Pitch: Leeds city centre

Home to me is about having a roof over my head, having all my furniture here. I’ve just moved into this new place. It’s much better than my old one, which was a basement flat. This is the best flat I’ve ever had. It’s all decorated, carpeted. The bedroom is massive. I haven’t got a cooker or a washing machine – I can’t afford them at the moment. I’m just using a microwave to cook. I’m used to doing my own cooking and around Christmas time I like to do my own dinner.

I’ve got anxiety and depression. I’ve had it nearly all my life. I get annoyed with people and feel anxious about things. It all builds up. It’s hard because I don’t have anyone to talk to. I feel quite isolated here. That’s one of the reasons I sell Big Issue North – to get out and meet people. My mum passed away in 1987. I used to look after her. I’ve got five brothers and one sister but I don’t see them very often. One of my brothers lives on the Isle of Wight. He’s a semi-professional photographer and he takes pictures of animals. I’ve got some of his pictures on my wall.

I’ll probably be here on Christmas Day. I’d like to spend it with family. I remember Christmas when I was younger, when we were all at home. I always put decorations up, even though I’m on my own.

Keith putting up his Christmas tree
Keith putting up his Christmas tree

Pitch: Sheffield city centre 

What does home mean to me? Now it’s where I stay and I’m at ease with myself and content – where I can sit down and stay in comfort. For about nine years I was on the street. I was in warehouses, derelict houses. I knew if I got my own place, I could make it work and get the things that I missed about home: to get up and not be in the damp and cold, to get up and be able to make a cup of coffee, to get up and be able to sit in a garden. I don’t want a plasma TV, state-of-the-art chairs and pine floors, things like that. I like the simple things. The garden is important to me, I’m working on it and hopefully in about 18 months I’ll have it sorted, with a lawn, some flowers, maybe grow some herbs. Just to be able to sit in the garden on a sunny day, get a book out, listen to the radio – as simple as it sounds, that is just tranquillity. It’s home.

It’s hard, the upkeep on the place. I resent paying bills, but so does the rest of the world. I do find responsibility a hard thing. But I love it as well. That responsibility is part and parcel of staying off drugs. The fear of not paying a bill – I know what the outcome of not keeping on top of it, not taking responsibility, will be. The thought of that, that fear of where I may end up, that makes me take responsibility for things.

This is the first Christmas that I’ll be spending in my own home. I’m planning on cooking Christmas dinner for some friends and some people I know who are on the streets and have nowhere else to go.

Murf in his garden
Murf in his garden

Pitch: Leeds city centre

I got this flat a week before Christmas last year. Before that I was sleeping on the streets. I used to find it hard paying bills and things like that, so I’d get somewhere and then lose it again, and end up back on the streets. It’s more difficult than a lot of people think to keep a flat. But this time it’s working.

Home means everything to me. I love it. My TV is the favourite bit of my home. When I’m at home I like to sit on my sofa and watch TV. I love Only Fools And Horses. I’ve got a full box set. They’re rogues, aren’t they? Am I a bit of a Del Boy? Now and again.

My mum slung me out when I was about sixteen. It was family problems. I just learnt to deal with it. I’m originally from Leeds, but I’ve been all over. I’ve got cerebral palsy, so I get a free bus pass because of my disability. I used to use my pass to go travelling. I used to wake up in one town and think “Fuck this, I’m not staying here,” and go to the next place. I’ve sold Big Issue North and The Big Issue all over: in London, Edinburgh, Preston, Glasgow, Manchester, Blackpool, Bridlington and Scarborough. My life is more settled now and things are miles better with my family.

It feels a little bit weird being in the same place now, having my own place. It feels even weirder being in town and seeing people begging and rough sleeping, and thinking I used to be in that situation. I always talk to them, but I could never go back to that.

I’m looking forward to another Christmas here and being here for a whole year. I’ve just put up a couple of decorations for Christmas. I’ll be here on my own on Christmas Day. I’ll most probably order a takeaway.

Stephen and his favourite TV comedy - Only Fools and Horses
Stephen and his favourite TV comedy – Only Fools and Horses

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