Rich, Doncaster

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How’s life going?
It’s okay. I will have had my flat for a year in July. It feels amazing. The fact that I can sit here and say, I did it. I know there were people who didn’t expect me to have this flat a year on – they expected me to cock up. But I’m not in rent arrears or anything, and I’m a million miles away from where people expected me to be. 

‘Getting a roof over your head – that’s when the work starts, the effort starts’ 

Did you expect you to cock up?
Yeah, I did, if I’m honest. Part of me did. I never had expectations in my head about what would happen. I thought when I got the flat, if I still have this place this time next year, what an achievement it will be – to come off the streets after two years and keep a flat going. When you are on the streets, you get used to not having bills, not cleaning up after yourself. It gets to a point when you are homeless when it’s easier to stay where you are. When you really hit rock bottom it can feel like there’s no point in trying to get yourself back up again. I’ve got my sister down the road and that’s been a massive thing. She’s really helped. But getting a roof over your head doesn’t mean everything is sorted. To me, getting a roof over your head – that’s when the game starts, when the work starts, the effort starts. 

Are you missing selling the magazine?
Yeah. I miss my customers. I have seen some of them around town since things have shut down and they have asked how I am and how they can get the magazine. Some of them have even given me money anyway or bought me things from shops. That’s been amazing. It’s put a smile on my face. I miss talking to them. Selling the magazine, it’s not just about the money. If it was only about the money, I could just go shoplifting or beg or something, but I enjoy talking to people and getting to know them. 

Have you noticed a lot of people still begging in Doncaster during the last few weeks?
There are some, yeah. I can understand the people who are still out begging – people who are homeless, nowhere to live, nowt else to do. They have been sat outside shops that have been open. But some people who used to beg have stopped. If I had still been begging, like I used to do, I wouldn’t have carried on. 

Have you been in touch with the Big Issue North office?
Yeah, I’ve been in touch with the office now and again. I hadn’t asked for any money from the crisis fund until a few weeks ago. It was difficult to ask for help, but I was struggling. 

How have you been keeping yourself entertained?
I started going to bingo just before the lockdown and got into that, so since the bingo place shut I’ve been playing different games on my phone. I’m careful not to put lots of money on. I have also been reading poems and things, especially on Facebook. A lot of things have really inspired me since this started, like that bloke Captain Tom Moore, who raised money for the NHS, and he’s inspired loads of other people to raise money for them as well, which is amazing 

Do you have a message for your customers?
Take care and stay safe. I know some people have the attitude that they won’t get infected or it won’t matter if they do because they will be okay, because they are healthy enough or strong enough to cope with it. I hope they realise that it’s about the people around them, their aunty, uncle, who are not strong enough for it, who might not be able to beat it. That’s why we should stick to the rules.

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Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

We have taken the difficult decision to tell our vendors that they cannot sell Big Issue North on the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, for the safety of the public and themselves.

This is a serious emergency for our vendors, and they need your help. There are three things you can do right now to help them get through this impossibly tough period.

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