When I first met Morley and he told me he sold the magazine, I stereotyped him, but I was wrong. Selling the magazines has turned my life around.
I have Sotos Syndrome, a learning difficulty, so I attended a special needs school. I cried the day I had to leave because I wanted to stay.
I worked as a care assistant after I left school, which I really enjoyed. I got married but my husband was violent. My mental health deteriorated to the point where I had to give up work. I walked out of an abusive marriage and had nothing.
After 16 years of suffering from depression, I’ve finally been referred to a psychiatrist. It’s appalling how long I’ve had to wait.
I’m passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues and altering people’s attitudes. I became involved with Collective Encounters, an organization that uses drama to campaign for social change, a couple of years ago. So far I’ve been in five plays.
Last year we took one of our plays to the Royal Opera House as part of the With One Voice Festival. It was awesome. Recently I performed at the Bluecoat in the center of Liverpool, playing the part of a young woman who grew up in the care system.
Acting has brought me out of my shell and given me the confidence to be myself. I’ve learnt that I’m the same as everyone else, in spite of my learning difficulties.
I live in supported accommodation, which means I have my own flat but there are staff on hand 24/7 if I need them.
I do a creative writing course with Crisis Skylight Merseyside. I’ve just been awarded my developing creative writing skills certificate. I get distracted easily but writing helps me to focus. My stories are usually about fairies and animals. They’re always happy.
Selling The Big Issue in the North helps with my mental health issues. I’m not a pushy vendor. I think it’s important to be really polite and wish people a nice day. I’ve already got some regular customers who ask if I’m OK if they haven’t seen me for a few days. We have a laugh and a joke.”
By Frances Barrett
Patrick Jansen is a 33-year-old street vendor in Dusseldorf, Germany. An HIV patient and ex-heroin addict, he is now clean.
By the third year of primary school I’d already discovered graffiti art and at high school things really got going: we’d show each other pictures and spray together – it was great fun. My time at school was really nice, all in all. I played the drums with a band and I had good friends. The problem was my home life.
Shortly before I finished high school, my parents had the bright idea of moving from Dusseldorf to Neuss. I didn’t want to leave my friends and everything I knew behind me. But I didn’t have a choice.
I finally finished school in Neuss and shortly afterwards I did an internship. It transpired that I was good with my hands and I was promised that after six months I’d be able to do some training. But when my time was up, I was told I hadn’t won a place. When I was 17 I came into contact with heroin.
After my internship I had a lot of jobs, from bin man to bulk waste clearer but none of them lasted very long due to my addiction. Because I needed money for drugs, I stole. My first big prison sentence was when I was 19 and because of my addiction I had therapy. At that point things were actually going fairly well for me but when I was released, it [my addiction] started all over again.
But there was one difference this time: I was diagnosed HIV-positive. My best friends and my family stepped back. The only person I still have is my grandmother. I help her when I can and I can always count on her.
Since July 2008, I’ve been selling fiftyfifty, I’m doing everything the job center offers me. I live with my two cats in a small flat and so far it’s going well. I’m painting again, with brushes and on screens, and when I have enough pictures I can exhibit them in the fiftyfifty gallery.”
- Translated by Declan Blench
By Ana BerkinReggie is a homeless man in Washington D.C., where an estimated 1 in 5 residents live in poverty.
Reggie started selling Street Sense in 2008 when he encountered an older man selling at Eastern Market. Reggie calls himself an advocate for the homeless. “There is so much money and policy going around, that no one worries about the faces. They walk right by.”
Beyond selling the paper, Reggie says his work with Street Sense has given him the opportunity to explore his wider interests and talents. He enjoys the challenge of reporting on various news events, and working with a computer design program to lay out the finished stories as newspaper pages.
“I like that I can be an amateur journalist while improving aspects of my life,” says Reggie. “Yeah, I may be homeless, but I have so much to offer.”
Reggie is a native Washingtonian. His mother died when he was 7 and his father in 2011. He doesn’t know where the rest of his family is, but wishes to find them.
Reggie says his experiences help him advocate for others who lack the supportive presence of a family.
Homelessness, Reggie says, is a problem that belongs to the community as a whole. He says the best way to end homelessness is with a comprehensive strategy that assigns everyone a role. The community needs to be open and informed about issues surrounding poverty, he believes.
Someday he would like to start an organization similar to Street Sense focused predominantly on the arts. It would give homeless artists an avenue to produce their own art and the resources to distribute it freely.
His other dream is to go into politics in order to fight homelessness.
He says, “I hope to be a voice and agent of change.”
By Molly Kraybill