Sheffield city centre

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 48 and I’m originally from Barnsley but I escaped.

‘You have got to have a bit of gallows humour.’

Why do you sell the magazine?
I was living in London but the landlord wanted to sell his property and it was difficult to get a house quickly. So we came back to Yorkshire, but my partner couldn’t settle and we ended up splitting. I moved into another property where the landlord again wanted possession quickly because he wanted to sell. So I kind of got into a situation where I was out on the streets, and staying with friends. Nobody really sees themselves being like this, but it’s like John Lennon says: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

Has homelessness risen in the last few years, do you think?
I do, yes. You have got to question the housing policies. There are properties available and they are just being left there empty and somebody has got to look at that. You’ll see a lot of people sleeping in shop doorways in Sheffield, yet on Park Hill there’s an entire estate boarded up, empty properties. It’s been like that for years. We shouldn’t have a situation like that – it’s ludicrous.

Where are you sleeping at the moment?
I’m sleeping out at the minute. I’m getting older now and it’s getting harder. The split with the wife knocked the stuffing out of me.

Do you like selling the magazine?
Yeah, I do. People in Sheffield, they are a good bunch. It’s more than just a business relationship, selling a magazine – some people are really concerned about your welfare and they come with really thoughtful things like cups of coffee and pairs of gloves when it’s cold. And it’s like you’ve got your problems, but people come to you and they tell you their problems. You feel like a sort of social worker or a priest in some sort of way. People trust you with their secrets sometimes.

What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to save enough from selling the magazine to pay for a deposit and then settle down, get back into full time employment and then be able to face the kids. It’s hard to save out on the streets because you eat fast food and things like that, which are expensive.

How do you keep going?
You have got to have a bit of gallows humour. And you have got to realise that there are always people a lot more unfortunate than you are, and even as bad as things are, you can eat, you can find somewhere to get a wash – there are people around with goodwill.

And you are into music, aren’t you?
I’ve always liked music, particularly the psychedelic stuff from the 1960s like Dylan and Hendrix. I find that era interesting because people were finding freedom for the first time since the war. There was hope when I was growing up in the eighties, there was Glasnost and Perestroika, and the Berlin Wall came down, Mandela come out of prison. The world seemed a more hopeful place for a season. I really hoped we could get somewhere. Now it feels like there are so many more problems in the world and it’s just become a resources grab.

Is there still hope?
I think there is hope but people need to get out of that thing of listening and accepting what they are told. You should question everything. When people questions things, they can’t be fobbed off all the time.

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