Andrew, St James Retail Park, Sheffield

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 38 years old and I was born in Sheffield. I have been selling Big Issue North for about a year and a half now. First I sold it in the city centre, then I started my own pitch out of town.

‘I’m back in touch with my auntie. She means the world to me’

How did you become homeless? 
Family problems. My mum died about six years ago. I was a mummy’s boy, the apple of her eye. My grieving process involved me going out and spending what money I had on things that would help me forget – things like drugs and alcohol. I ended up living in a tent before I got a private tenancy. But then I was illegally evicted and ended up on the streets again.

Where are you living at the moment?
I’m in supported accommodation. It’s a good place – better than the hostels I have stayed in before, which I used to call “hostiles”. I like it because you get to be you there. But the problem with it is people use drugs and alcohol there. It’s like a big carrot dangling in front of my face being there and I am trying to get on the straight and narrow.

Tell us about your pitch.
My pitch is outside the Aldi in St James Retail Park. I started it myself. Having a pitch a little way out of town helps. It gives me something extra to do, travelling out here and meeting people. It’s part of doing the job. It’s a good pitch. I don’t get much bother there but there is a bloke I know who comes to beg nearby every so often. It bugs me because he’s getting money for giving nothing to nobody. But I’ve been there myself, I’ve got the badge and the t-shirt. I gave up begging to do the Issue because it’s a bit more classy.

How’s life now?
My life has changed a lot in the last year or so. I am back in touch with my auntie after many years. She is my mum’s sister. She means the world to me. I would do anything for her and she would do anything for me. She’s very open and down to earth.

You wear a hearing aid. Tell us about that. 
I have had hearing problems since I was born. I’m supposed to wear two hearing aids but I lost one. I can hear fine with my hearing aids in and I can also lip read. I didn’t wear my hearing aids as a kid because I got bullied in school for wearing them. So I’m no brainy whizz kid. But I’ve taught myself a lot since I left school. I’ve got a BICS certificate in cleaning and I’ve worked as a cook as well.

What would you like to do in the future? 
I’d like to start a homeless charity and open a 24-hour café for homeless people where they can get a free meal and a hot drink whenever they need one.

Do you have a message for your customers?
I’m still selling the magazine so please come and buy off me and thank you to everyone for all their help and support.

Photo: Lee Brown

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