"I’ll start this the way I start every conversation – with a ‘Good morning, how are you?’ People probably recognise me on the streets as the man who balances the magazine on his index finger. My goal every day is to make people smile. The sale, that’s just helping me get a home, but if I get a smile from you, that’s made my day.
I was born in NSW, but grew up in Darwin. I became a junkie; I became an alco. I moved to Brisbane to get away from things, and ended up having a child here. He was my new start in life. I gave it all away as soon as I had a kid, gave it up for a reason. I’m proud of what I do now.
Ten years later I’m still here, and thankfully my son’s still here. I haven’t seen him for nearly two years, but I try to send him things and keep in touch. I’m trying to save money to buy him a BMX bike for his birthday.
Still have no home, but I do have a dog now – two years old, named Moe, a Jack Russell. He’s interestingly ugly, but I guess you could say he’s cute.
It’s been about eight months since I had a steady roof over my head. I got kicked out of where I was living, and signed back up with The Big Issue to save some money for bond. I’m just trying to get some sort of accommodation.
I’ve been doing the Issue for about 10 years I suppose, off and on, in Brisbane city the whole time. I work seven days a week – I don’t have any hobbies when I’m not at work. Selling the magazine is my entertainment!
A lot of people don’t understand what mental illness is like. I don’t like crowds or big groups of people. Selling the magazine’s a bit hard at times, but I just do what I can every day to try to get over that fear. Selling The Big Issue helps me to talk to people.
My day starts with me waking up, cuddling my dog for a bit, then getting the bus into work. I usually work until about two or three o’clock but, you know, with my headspace if it starts getting loud I’ve just gotta go. It’s getting better though…
My mum passed away over Christmas, and my family have kind of broken up since. She was the centre of it all, held everything together. The only things that are stopping me from falling apart are having my dog there to cuddle up to at night, and having my son in my life. But, you know, it hurts. I get a lot of support from my friends, and from The Big Issue office as well.
Just because someone might be homeless, they might live on the streets and be a bit hairy and scary, people shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. To anyone who reads this, especially my regular customers, I’m thanking you for your smile."
Nathan sells The Big Issue at cnr Creek & Adelaide Sts, Brisbane
interview by Kurt Maroske photograph by Peter Franks
This article first appeared in Ed#504 of The Big Issue