Aaron Dunn, 30, Covent Garden, London
“I write a diary every day. Once I’m settled I want to see if I can get it published”
I use The Big Issue in times of crisis, so I’ve got an income when I’m on the streets. I came to London from Blackpool in October and I’ve been selling the magazine since mid-November. I recently got a card reader and it has helped a lot because a lot of my customers don’t carry cash. My income has increased – 15 or 20 magazines more every week.
I was a labourer for a skipping company up north but I lost my job because of mental health problems and being bullied at work. I also lost my flat. It’s harder to be homeless in Blackpool as it’s colder and there are less services to help you. 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. As soon as Starbucks opens at 6am get my coffee and then down on my pitch at 7.30am on the dot.
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. Funny story – we started chatting and about three weeks later he asked me where I was from. I said Burnley and he said he was from Blackburn. Burnley and Blackburn supporters aren’t meant to get on!
My plan for the future is just to enjoy life again
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. But I’ve had to stop writing it in my sleeping bag at night as someone rang the police thinking I was writing a suicide note, ready to jump in the river. The police advised me to stop writing it before I go to sleep so I do it before I bed down now.
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. And now I’ve got a Star Wars graphic novel that I’m going to take to St James’s Park this afternoon and read. Living on the streets, reading is a way for me to relax.
I’m hoping to get off the streets soon. Then 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.
I’m on my pitch Monday – Friday 7.30am-12/1pm
Interview: Sarah Reid
Photo: Orlando Gili
Covent Garden, London, UK