How old are you and where are you from?
I am 36 years old and I was born in Doncaster.
‘I’m in touch with the Sheffield office. I got a hardship payment the other week’
How long have you sold the magazine?
I’ve only been selling for about six months or so and it’s the first time I’ve sold it. I was homeless for about two and a half years. When I started getting things together it was suggested that I do this. It was something I had wanted to do for some time. It’s done me well and helped me earn a living. It feels like I can live a normal life. I was doing well on my pitch outside Boots, I had some good regulars, and it kept me busy and kept my mind occupied.
How did you end up homeless?
I had drug problems when I was younger. My mum and dad tried helping me as much as they could but as I got older I wanted to try and help myself and I realised I was messing my mum and dad’s heads up. I was trying my best to stop but it was hard because it was an addiction. My mum and dad wouldn’t let me live with them basically. They didn’t chuck me out, but we all agreed that we couldn’t live with each other and I ended up being homeless after that. I was living in a tent for about a year, in doorways for about six months. But I survived. I’m like Bear Grylls, me.
Where did you sleep in the tent?
I was under a bridge in Doncaster in a four-man tent. I shared it with a mate for a time. I used to go out begging and share the money that I made with him. When I got a flat, he moved in with me but then he turned on me because I wasn’t making so much money. He started bullying me and bringing loads of people round – drug dealers and that. He ended up taking over the flat and I had to get out of that situation and put myself back on the streets again.
Where are you now?
I’m in my own accommodation – a one bedroom flat.
How are things going at the moment?
I’m just trying to keep busy really. I get some benefits that I can use for food and things like that. I’m thinking about my mum and dad a lot. My dad’s a diabetic and my mum works as a carer. They only just told my mum to stop working because my dad is vulnerable. I was worried about them for ages but I feel a bit better now I know she isn’t working. I get up in the morning and keep the flat tidy and go out for some morning exercise. I’ve got a TV. What else can anyone do? I’m a qualified joiner and I have got some laminate flooring to do my hallway. But I had one pack and then made a stupid mistake and bought two other packs but they were a different thickness. I’ll have to take them back when I can.
You used to be a joiner?
Yeah, and I want to get back to that eventually, but it was having all that money years ago that made me get on the crack and heroin. I started smoking pot when I was 10 years old. I don’t blame anyone – it was just the people I knocked about with. I worked my way up from cannabis to heroin. It’s all I’d ever known. But now I’m staying clean, eating well, looking well. I’m doing really well off the drugs. I feel like I’ve been through all of this, coming off drugs and stuff, and then this virus happens and it’s like I’m being tested or something, to try and cock me up. But I’m determined. I’m not going to let this beat me. The drugs were killing me.
Have you been in touch with Big Issue North since you stopped selling the magazine?
Yeah, I’m in touch with the office in Sheffield. I got a hardship payment the other week because I was struggling with money. It paid for my mobile phone bill. I need a phone to stay in touch with people. And I was a bit overdrawn with the bank as well.
Are you worried about what’s going to happen next?
I wonder what’s going to happen to the magazine and how long it’s going to be before we can get back on the streets to sell. I had some great customers and I made a lot of friends on my pitch and maybe they are wondering where I am and how I am doing. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them helping me. Selling the magazine means I’ve got someone to talk to. They are genuine friends. I enjoy it. It’s not about the money. So yeah, I hope we do get back eventually.