Our Vendors: Howard (Big Issue North, Leeds, UK)

Interview by Elyse Murray, for Big Issue North

How did you become homeless?

I separated from my ex-wife about 15 years ago and after that I spent the next few years moving from place to place. As a result of the separation, I developed depression, which I still suffer from today.

How do you cope with your depression?

Some days are better than others. Sometimes I wake up and I don’t feel like doing much, then other days I feel as happy as Larry. Over the past few years I’ve made a few close friends that I can turn to for help. At one time I used to drink quite heavily to cope. I still drink, but not as much as I used to do. I’ve cut that down. Now I find a lot of strength from my faith and I’ve been involved in a church group known as Jesus Army. Sometimes that and the picture of my daughter are the only things that keep me going.

How did you come to sell Big Issue North?

I used to sell the local evening newspaper in the town centre, but that finished about a year ago. They don’t actually sell it on the streets now like they used to do, so I and other newspaper vendors lost our jobs overnight. I enjoy selling the magazine because I’ve met quite a few interesting characters, and I’ve also found out about a few organisations that help people that are homeless.

I hear you are a big rugby fan.

Leeds Rhinos are my favourite rugby league team. They won the Challenge Cup a couple of weeks ago and I was lucky enough to go and see them play. At the beginning of last month, a guy came up to me and put what I thought was £20 into my hand. Later on I realised that he had actually given me £60! Part of the money went on getting a cup final ticket and the rest on things that I needed. Going to the cup final was fantastic. I loved it. It is the most prestigious club competition in rugby league and it’s always a fantastic occasion. There are fans from every club within the rugby league community and you can make some really good friends through it.

What else do you do in your spare time?

I write a lot of poetry. It tends to be based around my faith and experiences. I suffer with dyslexia and find it difficult when it comes to spelling, but I find writing poetry uplifts me.

Is there anything you would like to say to your customers?

I’d like to thank them for the support they have given. And to people who don’t buy the magazine, I’d like to say, don’t be frightened of approaching vendors. Some people just look at you and walk past without even saying anything, which can be difficult. But there are others that do acknowledge you. Even if people say “no thank you”, it gives you a little lift just to be acknowledged.

INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers.