‘I had a place and then I didn’t’

Steven, who sells Big Issue North in Manchester, has a remarkable conversation via Skype with Patty, who sells Street Sense in Washington DC

Hero image

Patty: Steven, what were you doing before you got with the newspaper?

Steven: Drinking and taking drugs.

P: Were you living in a place or were you not living in a place?

S: I was living in a place and then I ended up not living in a place.

P: What kind of place was it?

S: A one-bedroom apartment.

P: How long did you live there?

S: 11 years.

P: 11 years? Were you doing drugs all the time that you lived there?

S: No, not all the time – about seven years.

P: How did the drugs make you feel?

S: They just made me feel everyday normal… How long have you been selling your magazine and what’s it called?

P: My magazine is called Street Sense and I’ve been selling 11 and a half years. How I got to the newspaper was, at that time I was living at the YWCA – this was around 2003 – my mother was paralysed in a nursing home, we had just lost our properties and what happened was one of my girlfriends said why don’t you go back to school, get some kind of education, so that’s what I did. I went and got some kind of education, and on the internet I found Street Sense.

Big Issue North seller Steven (main picture) in our Manchester office talks on Skype to Street Sense’s Patty (above) in Washington DC

S: And what education were you learning?

P: It was an entrepreneurship programme… Life before Street Sense was hanging out at the YWCA without a job… I took this magazine and went to school, went to another school, went to a university. The university was called Strayer University, right in the heart of downtown Washington… I took some business classes.

S: Does the magazine support you well or do you struggle?

P: It’s a day-to-day living, something like hand to mouth. Some days I make a lot of money…

S: Some not. I totally understand that.

P: Are you experiencing the same thing?

S: Totally, 100 per cent the same. Good days and bad days.

P: You say you’re totally off of the drugs?

S: Yes.

P: What made you know that you had to get off drugs?

S: Ill health. My health deteriorated. That’s why it had to stop.

P: My aunt died eight years ago. My mother went in a nursing home and she was paralysed and my aunt was taking care of her. While I was at Strayer I had a bad drinking problem. I couldn’t recover from my aunt dying and that’s how I got out of school. After my aunt died I just gave up drinking. Snap, snap.

S: A decision – you just decided you’re done, that’s enough?

P: I was worried about who was going to take care of my mother, and I want to tell you that my mother died two days before the new year. She just died.

S: Sorry to hear that.

P: Thank you.

S: So how are things with you?

P: Everything is coming back together. I’m getting back in work, I’m loving this job, I’m loving this work, I’m loving my support system from Street Sense buddies. I’m living on Connecticut Avenue. I’ve been there for over a year. My mother left me a little bit of money so if everything comes through I get it.

S: Use it wisely.

P: I will.

S: Do you think you’ll keep selling the magazine for all time or do you think at some point you’ll stop doing it?

P: Let me ask you how long you’ve been selling the magazine.

S: I don’t know – 10 years?

P: I can see in the background your newspaper – it looks real good.

S: They just moved offices a few months ago – it looks brand new.

P: It looks real nice.

S: They’re nice people.

P: How were you treated by others when you were homeless?

S: Good and bad in about equal measures.

P: Were you living on the street or were you living in a shelter?

S: Living in the streets and the shelter – it changed the whole time. Streets, then shelters, then streets.

P: What is the weather like to allow you to live on the street? Is it hot over in England?

S: No.

P: It’s cold?

S: Cold and wet.

P: You say you live in an apartment now?

S: Yes.

P: One bedroom?

S: One bedroom. I cook for myself. I make my own food.

P: What do you like to cook?

S: Spaghetti bolognese.

P: I like spaghetti… It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Interact: Responses to ‘I had a place and then I didn’t’

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.