Howard, Leeds city centre

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We last spoke in 2017. How have you been since then?
I found last year a bit of a struggle because my mum passed away. My mum passing had a big impact on my life and then towards the end of last year I lost one of my uncles. 

How old are you now?
I am 51 years old. I had a great 50th birthday. The social club where I go organised a collection for me and bought me a Leeds Rhinos top with my name and age on the back. I didn’t know they were collecting for this. When I asked, they said it was for St George’s Crypt, a homeless shelter, and I put my hand in my pocket and put some money into the collection. So I ended up donating money to my own birthday collection!

Tell us a bit more about the social club.
It’s the Hunslet Carr Sports and Social Club. They have things like bingo and live turns on the weekend. I am vice president on the committee. It has a community feel and a community spirit. I love it. I always have done. I have been going there for well over 10 years and I got a lot of support from people who go there when I lost my mum.

What was your childhood like?
I had a lot of difficulties as a child because I have learning difficulties and I suffer with depression. When I was growing up, I got picked on a hell of a lot. There wasn’t much known about learning difficulties back when I was a kid. It’s the same with depression. Until recently, we didn’t know a lot about that.  

How do you cope with your depression?
I tend to try and hide my depression and put a front on, which is not always good. I found out last year that my nephew also suffers with depression and I was able to get him to talk about it a little bit. I know it’s better to talk about things like mental health.

How are the Rhinos doing?
They are not doing too good this year. They are third bottom at the moment. They have lost a lot of good players to other teams or because they have retired. They are starting to get the younger players through, but it’s a big step from playing at the academy to playing on the team. But I will always support them. You could cut me in half and there would be blue and amber, the Rhinos’ colours, running through me. 

You still write poetry. How long have you been doing that?
I have written poetry for over 20-odd years. I love writing, even though my spelling isn’t always brilliant and sometimes I use the wrong word. I have a book at home which I copy them into. My poems are often based on my personal experiences and my faith. I wrote a poem when my mum died and read it at the funeral. It helps me a great deal to express myself and express how I am feeling and what’s going on.

Do you still enjoy selling the magazine?
I certainly do, even though it’s hard sometimes. Selling the magazine has helped me a great deal. It helps me focus on important things and where I want to be in life.

What are your hopes for the future?
I’d like to be in a better place than where I was last year, mentally and emotionally.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Just thank you for all the support that they give me – it really does mean a lot.

A New Life

Life can be hard when you feel down.
When things seem to go wrong
And you are all alone
When you have nowhere to go
And nowhere to turn
When you’re on the street
Or have nowhere to live
When you don’t know where your
next meal is going to come from
And money is short. What will you do?
Where will you go? Where will you turn?
Maybe you’ll beg for money
or steal to get by
But wait there is another way
It might just help you turn
your life around. It worked
for me. It might just work
for you. I sell the
Big Issue North it’s changed my
life and I would like to say
thank you to those who support me
When they buy the magazine from me
You may not know what it means but
it means a lot as it has
given me a new hope and
life in my hard times.

Howard Newton

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