Garry Buchan’s Story
Photography: Rebecca Bernstein
My name is Garry Buchan and because of you I’ve begun rebuilding my life.
I started selling the magazine in Bristol last October. Things were not going great for me, but The Big Issue gave me a way of earning money and working towards something better. I sell in a nice part of town and I work hard – I’m smashing all my own selling targets.
I’m from the north-east of Scotland and I had been working for a few years as a foreman on construction sites in Aberdeenshire. I was working for one of the big private builders, so we’d build new homes and also do a small proportion of lower-cost homes for the housing association.
Sadly I lost the job and fell into a downwards spiral. The decline of the oil industry has affected everything in the North East, including the amount of housing getting built. But Aberdeen is still really expensive to rent and live, so I found it difficult to survive. I thought I’d come down south where at least there might be a better chance of work – which I’d done before. I thought Bristol would be a good place to try.
Unfortunately I lost my CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card – a license necessary to get construction work - and I fell into a cycle of sleeping rough. I was in hostels for a couple of weeks but they’re not places for someone like me who wants a clean-living lifestyle.
I’m rough sleeping at the moment. I don’t have a local connection in Bristol which means I’m not eligible for council accommodation so I’m trying to rent privately. Through The Big Issue Foundation’s rough sleeper drop-in I’ve managed to access the St Mungo’s Rough Sleeper Team. Once I find permanent work I should get matched with a landlord through the Rough Sleeper Team and hopefully have a roof over my head. One day I’d love to get a house boat – that is the dream.
I call Bristol the sleepy city because it really only wakes up gradually, from about 10am. But it’s very nice and relaxed – very friendly people. In February I was offered some work with the Bristol Post handing out free newspapers as part of a trial they are running. I was guaranteed work for four weeks, four hours a day at over £8 per hour. But I had lost all my documents including any ID so was unable to access my bank account.
Martha, a Big Issue Foundation Service Broker in Bristol, helped me sort it out. She helped me get a copy of my birth certificate so that I had some identity. We went into our local bank branch with my new birth certificate and managed to reactivate my account. This meant I could get my wages paid in. The job was good work experience as well as providing a steady income during a quiet month.
In April, I attended a first aid training course with The British Red Cross and got a certificate – I am now a qualified first aider. This I believe will make me more employable. I’m hoping that with the contacts I’ve made here while looking for security and construction work that something will come through.
I am an outdoors type and I love walking – especially hill walking. I love to get away on a long walk, no radio, no TV, no distractions. It helps me clear my mind. Last year I walked the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way and raised money for Help for Heroes. The route takes you all the way from Milngavie, just outside of Glasgow, way up to Inverness. The views are fabulous but you need to be fit. I did a sort of power walk – 20 miles a day. It took me about eight-and-a-half days in all.
This year, I’m doing it all over again but this time raising money for The Big Issue Foundation. I’d like to give something back for all the support they have given to me. I would like to thank Mountain Warehouse for kindly gifting me with walking boots for this challenge – this will make such a big difference! They are also donating 120 survival bags for the participants at The Big Sleep Out in November.
This June, due to my good sales and good behaviour I’ve been selected to sell at Glastonbury. Paul who sold there last year said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I am very excited. The weather looks set to take a turn for the worse though. Hopefully I’ll make a lot of sales. I’m hoping the magazine will help me get back on my feet. It won’t be for the lack of trying, anyway.
To you and everyone who supports The Big Issue Foundation, I thank you. Your donations have really made a big difference to my life.