24 April 2017

Jacob S, Sydney

Photograph by Peter Holcroft

I’m not really a straight-cut potato, I have a couple of curves to me. I also had a few difficulties growing up, but it’s always about never giving up. I’ve always thought if you look at the brighter side of life and focus on something positive, you might be able to work out the answer to a tough situation.

I was born in Denmark. Before my family moved to Australia in 1990, I was in a car accident at the age of eight. I was in a 33-day coma and I had to learn everything again: to walk, talk and eat.

When I was 10, Dad decided to move the family to Australia. I started school in Year 4, even though I only knew how to speak Danish. Nothing was easy. I struggled through school, but at times school felt like a little holiday from home.

It was hard at home, it had become a dark hole. Sometimes I felt like I didn’t really have a family at home, but once I got to school I’d realise that there was life. My school friends were lifesavers to me; I pretty much used Years 11 and 12 to hang on to school and hang on to mates.

Halfway through Year 12, though, I’d had enough. I couldn’t handle the pain. I ran away from home when I was 17.

When I hit 18, I got too old for refuges. I started sleeping rough in Parramatta where all my stuff got stolen. Then I stayed in a hostel in Kings Cross for about five or seven weeks before I graduated from school.

I’ve now been on the streets for more than 10 years. There is some crazy stuff that happens on the streets, from tents being burned down to stabbings. But that’s sort of life, street life. You roll on with it all. It’s a little bit scary, there are plenty of traps you can fall into unless you know how to dance around the people who are doing the wrong thing; dance around the crows, not fly with the crows. Thankfully, I don’t have any addictions.

I try and help people going through homelessness and addiction by giving them support. Sometimes reminding them to look on the light side will help them out. Once you care for people, the goodness that it brings out of them – the kindness and respect – shows. Once you show love it mirrors back, it’s pretty cool.

I also help out at food vans, preparing meals and chatting to people. It brings me a lot of enjoyment. I’ve got a huge family now in the city and this is what I love.

The Big Issue is one of the best things that has happened to me, it’s already done so much for me ever since I put my foot inside that front door in October. It is all positive, and words that build you up to help you. Having had all the abuse growing up, it is great when I have positive people around me. It is the coolest thing.

And now I have a way of making money, but it’s not all about the money – I see it as me going out there on my pitch and having the chance to make friends and grow the family.

This article first appeared in Ed#535 of The Big Issue

Interview by Sam Clark
Jacob S sells The Big Issue cnr Pitt and Bathurst Sts, Sydney