Aaron, Boots, Doncaster

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How old are you and where are you from?
I am 37 years old and I was born in Doncaster.

Why did you start selling Big Issue North?
I was homeless for about two and a half years. When I started getting things together it was suggested that I do this. I’ve been selling it for about three years now. I do well on my pitch. I have some good regulars and it keeps me busy and keeps my mind occupied.

‘I’m staying clean and eating well. I’d love to be a joiner again’

How did you end up homeless?
I’m a joiner but during the recession, in 2008, I lost my job and I got made redundant. After that, I started to spiral. I started drinking and then doing drugs. I was worried 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. So I left home and I ended up being homeless after that. I started off in doorways for six months and it was really scary. I’d never been homeless before. But then me and another lad got a tent and we went under a bridge in Doncaster. There were a few people in tents there – we all kept ourselves to ourselves. 

Tell me a bit more about your mum and dad.
They are amazing. They went through so much raising us kids and they had to sacrifice a lot to give us, their three feisty lads, the most cherished memories when we were growing up. They gave us love, morals and good simple politeness, all you need in life to go a long way!

Where are you now?
I’m in my own accommodation – a one bedroom flat. It’s brilliant. It’s in an old, converted church. 

What was the worst thing about lockdown?
Being on my own, left with my own thoughts and dwelling on the stupid stuff I did to my family and things like that. I over-think things. That’s my problem. I was always very anxious as a kid – worried about stuff. That’s why I took drugs, because it stopped me thinking about stuff. I was also getting worried about paying my bills as time went on. I kept in touch with the gas and water people, saying that I wanted to pay them when I could but that I wasn’t earning any money. Now I’m on a payment plan to start paying off some of my debts.

Did you get any help during the last year?
Yeah, I got some hardship payments from Big Issue North and that really helped. And I get support from Changing Lives in Doncaster, which is where I buy my magazines from. They say I am doing really well but I still need their support sometimes. 

And how is life now?
Things are going well. I’m staying clean, eating well and looking well. I would love to get back to being a joiner but I am worried about taking that step. I don’t want to risk everything that I have achieved and how far I have come. I’m worried about losing my flat and ending up homeless again. I know it has to be small steps basically. I’d love to learn to drive and get my own car one day, but I don’t want people thinking that I am earning so much money from selling the magazine that I don’t need their support, because I really do. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
I want to thank them for all the support that they have given me. They have kept me going. It’s not just the money – it’s the fact that I have something to do, selling the magazine, and people to talk to. A lot of my customers are like friends now. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them helping me. I’m so grateful to everyone for that. But I also want to thank so many other people as well. There’s the staff in Boots on Frenchgate – they are so pleasant and accommodating towards me. It makes me feel like I’m doing things right and they actually like me and don’t judge me, which I’ve had problems with all my life. And most of all thanks to Ben and everyone else at Big Issue North – they are the main reason I’m where I am now. 

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