Our vendors: Martin Gruber (Augustin, Vienna, Austria)

By Martin Gruber, Augustin vendor

My first Augustin card was Number 19, or to put it another way, I started with the second edition. That was just over 20 years ago now. I was 21 at the time and had regularly been sleeping at the Crypt [homeless shelter]. I came across Augustin via the Crypt, because it was even given out in there at the start.

How does a 21-year-old end up in the Crypt? I’ll spare you the details, but what I will say is that I wanted to be free. I could have continued to live with my parents, but I didn’t want to do that anymore. I didn’t have a permanent address for a few years, then, when I was 17, I was given a small council flat in Simmering, beside the main cemetery on the outskirts of the city.

I don’t have any particular hobbies any more. I used to like to go out to the Danube Island, but now that there aren’t any good public transport connections any more, I go for walks in the main cemetery. I stopped playing computer games – you get older you know – and I didn’t want to and wasn’t able to keep buying the latest graphics cards that you need for games.

“How does a 21-year-old end up in a homeless hostel? I wanted to be free.”

I put off going to the debt advice service – you know how it is – but I can only encourage anyone who is struggling with debt to go there.  I had to declare myself bankrupt. I’ve been unemployed for 15 years and don’t have any vocational qualifications either. At least I’ve got a bank account again now, I can’t go into overdraft, but at least I have a card for the cash machine.

I’ve been selling the Augustin for a few years near the Floridsdorf train station – outdoors at a bus stop. It was unbearably hot there last summer. I’m usually there during the day, Monday to Friday, but I’m also there on Saturdays just before Christmas. Augustin vendors are still allowed in public spaces, just as we were 20 years ago. Sales have dropped however.

I’ve tried selling in various places, the Westbahnhof station, outside Jonas-Reindl or on the Karlsplatz square. I ended up at the Floridsdorf train station after the competition on the Karlsplatz became too tough.

Hopefully I’ll soon be able to work for a social enterprise for a few hours a week as well as selling newspapers. I’d love to do that!