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10 August 2018

David S

David

David S sells The Big Issue in Parramatta, Rhodes and Burwood, Sydney.

I started selling The Big Issue in 1996, from Ed#3. I’d seen it advertised in a hostel in Melbourne. I went and signed up for it and sold that day. Almost 22 years later I’ve sold all over Australia; in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. There were many times I needed a change of scenery, so I’d go to another state and sell for a few months, or a couple of years, till I got sick of it.

Wherever I go the customers have been good. It’s amazing how customers draw you into their lives. One lady wanted to find accommodation for her nephew. She came up and asked me; told me the story and I told her that I would find out for her. One of my other customers I knew was associated with the homeless accommodation at Parramatta, so I got them connected. We can always help someone else out, we’re not just there to sell magazines, or give directions.

Mental illness led me to homelessness. When I was with a partner of mine I found out I was mentally ill and she couldn’t handle it. She took off and I came out of the hospital one day and no-one was there.

I slept outside 95 per cent of the time when I was homeless, but I’ve got a place now. I’ve been there for six years – that’s a record for me. It was hard moving in at first. I thought, why am I paying rent? I don’t want to pay rent. I wanted to leave because I’d been out for so long, I was used to camping out. I was sleeping on the floor for the first few months, I felt more comfortable on the floor… Now I sleep on the lounge. I do sleep on the bed sometimes.

It took about 12 months to get over the itchy feet. I’ve still got my rucksack as a reminder of where I’ve come from, where I once was. Even my old swag, I’ve still got that. It’s on top of the cupboard now though so I can’t see it, it’s not like I can just grab it and go. I’ve got too much stuff now, it will probably take me three truck-loads to move out of there. In my last vendor profile I said I was saving up for a fridge and someone bought it for me. I’ve still got it – that’s probably part of the reason I’m still there, you can’t carry that around with ya.

When I first moved in I had to buy a broom and a mop. I went shopping one day and I hadn’t been shopping for 10 years, I hadn’t been in the supermarket. Some of the stuff I didn’t know. What happened to the old cleaner we used to buy? There used to be one and now there are about 10,000 different brands.

I’m doing City2Surf with The Big Issue again this year, it’s the sixth year in a row. I’ve got regular people that donate every year. I think it’s both them supporting me and supporting The Big Issue. They know what I go through every day, so that’s why they keep giving. I’d like to say g’day to everyone at Rhodes, Parramatta, Burwood and Mascot. A special shout out to Hank and Mary, two very special customers.

The most rewarding thing about selling the magazine is the accomplishment that I got up in the morning and actually done something.

Photo by Peter Holcroft

Interview by Sam Clark
Sydney