I started with The Big Issue in a time of crisis when I needed an income on the streets. I came to London from Blackpool in October and I’ve been selling the magazine since mid-November.
I was a labourer for a skipping company up north but I lost my job because of mental health problems. I also lost my flat. I am sleeping by the river now. It’s pretty rough but I get up every morning at 5 o’clock, have my cigarette, get my coffee, like a ritual routine.
The first month on this pitch was really hard – I was lucky to sell five magazines a day. But now I have so many people who walk past saying, “Morning Aaron” before I can say good morning to them. One bloke buys me a coffee and breakfast every morning without fail.
James O’Brien from LBC buys me a coffee every morning and he’s done two shout-outs on the radio for me. It’s boosted my customers. A couple of people have come up to me and said, “Are you Aaron?” And they tell me that James mentioned me on the radio. The first time he did it, I sold an extra 23 magazines in one day. I’ve known him since just before Christmas but I didn’t realise who he was until he introduced himself in mid-January.
I’ve got into photography recently. I also enjoy reading and write a diary every day. Once I’ve got somewhere to live, I want to see if I can get it published. It keeps me motivated. I’ve been a keen reader since I read the Harry Potter books when I was about 13. It was a bit of escapism from my childhood, which wasn’t easy as my dad was a drug addict. After that I didn’t read for a while, until I discovered the Lord of the Rings books. I just thought they were awesome and it opened up a whole other area of interest for me – mythology, war films and things like that. I’ve just read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which one of my regulars gave to me.
I’m hoping to get off the streets soon. Last month I took part in Pay it Forward; a new scheme using QR technology to turn The Big Issue into the world’s first re-sellable magazine by enabling vendors to earn extra income via onward sale of their magazines. It’s great because you get to earn extra money on top of the sales you make of the magazine. You never know how far it is going to go. One of my magazines has already been QR scanned and passed around over 20 times.
My plan for the future is just to enjoy life again. I’ve got an interview with Pret tomorrow and hopefully I’ll settle in London. Whenever I’m anywhere else I’m lonely because all my friends are here. I might be homeless, but I’ve still got a social life.
Vicky Major, London Service Broker
“I started working with Aaron shortly after he began selling in November. Because he was sleeping rough, the first priority was to get him off the streets and into a night shelter. Aaron commented that a lot of his customers don’t carry cash so the next step was to get him a digital card reader so he could take payments via contactless. We lso managed to help him get a phone so he could track his magazine sales digitally and manage his money using a budgeting app. Within days his income skyrocketed – 15 or 20 more magazines every week.
“Aaron is now looking to progress forward in other ways. I suggested the Pret Rising Stars programme and he is super interested in exploring this further. Good luck Aaron – we look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about your future successes”.