Rich, TK Maxx, Doncaster

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 32 years old and I am from South Elmsall originally.

Why did you start selling Big Issue North?
I was begging, asking for spare change near the train station. I never got anywhere so when I learnt about Big Issue North I thought it was worth a try. At least now I’m housed. I’m getting there, but it took a long time.

Where were you before?
I spent 16 months in a hostel, a horrible place. They charge excessive amounts of money for people to be in there. They could spend that money on people who are in arrears with their rent. If they supported people in their own places they wouldn’t end up in hostels in the first place. Just try to keep them housed! 

How did you become homeless?
My mum got dementia. I was living with her. Then I ended up in jail – because of drugs. When I got out my mum was in a care home, so I couldn’t live with her and I ended up on the streets.

What was your childhood like?
All right, I suppose. My dad died when I was about 13 so you know, no male role model. My mum didn’t have control over me. I promised her that I would make her proud of me and she said: “I’ll always be proud of you – you’re my boy.” But I want to make her proud of me because of something I’ve done, not just because I’m her son. So now I’m trying to get my life on track.

Do you have any other family?
I have a sister. If it weren’t for her I’d be dead. She looks after me and my daughter lives with her. My sister is older than me. There’s 19 years between us. When I got this flat it took nearly seven weeks to get the electric on because of problems with my top-up card. The only thing that kept me sane was because my sister lived in the same village. If she hadn’t been near me, I would have thrown the keys back at them and ended up back on the streets. 

How has homelessness changed?
Years ago, most of the people who were ending up homeless were addicts. People thought of them as lowdown scum of the earth. These days though, many of the people who are ending up homeless are just normal.

Do people need more than a roof over their head when it comes to preventing homelessness?
Yes! A lot of us start begging because of the social aspect. They give you a roof over your head but nothing else. So you can be sat there day after day, no electric, no telly, no one to talk to, mental health issues anyway – it’s no good. They need to understand you can’t just house people and that’s that.

What makes you happy?
My daughter. She’s 13. She’s hard. She can look after herself. And football. I don’t support any particular team. Professional players are overpaid idiots who don’t deserve to play in the Sunday league. Soldiers don’t get in a lifetime what they earn in a year. It’s ridiculous. But I love the game. I love sport in general. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
Keep on helping them who are helping themselves. 

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