Andrew McGarry, 51, Martins Lane, Exeter
“I feel like this town has taken a real shine to me”
Things are going really well for me at the moment. I’m smashing my sales targets, and I’ve a lot of friendly new customers here in Exeter. I used to sell the magazine in Towcester, up in Northamptonshire, but last year I decided to make a change. I was getting a bit of hassle there. Also, my brother passed away, so I thought it would good to make a fresh start to deal with the grief.
For my first year in Exeter, I stayed in B&Bs and backpackers’ hostels. I kept my head down and got on with things. Recently, with my sales going so well, I moved into rented accommodation – a very small place. It’s my own space with my own tumble drier, so I’m very happy with that.
I’m always keen to help out others going through some of what I’ve been through
Exeter’s a great place to be, actually. It’s got friendly people, lovely shops, great scenery and canoeing along the River Exe. The Cathedral is a focal point for tourists.
I feel like the town has taken a shine to me, and I’m always keen to help out others going through some of what I’ve been through. So at the end of last year I raised £100 so a local charity connected to St Petrock’s Church could provide fresh clothes for the homeless guys in town. I raised another £100 the same way last month.
I know what it’s like to sleep outside, and dealing with damp clothes can be a nightmare. Once you’ve been homeless yourself you know that it’s important to have some generosity and support. Back in Towcester I raised more than £1,000 organising a charity concert and calendar project. Half the money went to the local church, and the other half went to helping homeless people in Northamptonshire.
I’ve also launched a flask appeal through my Facebook page: Andrew Helping Others. I ask people to bring flasks of tea and coffee to me and I make sure it gets redistributed to those on the streets in Exeter. It’s been going really well – a great response from generous people.
My faith has become more important to me recently. I’ve been going to a local evangelical group
My faith has become more important to me recently. I’ve been going to the local Rediscover Church, an evangelical group that meets in the city centre. There are some really lovely people there, and it’s a great chance to give thanks to God for all the help he’s given me get through some tough times.
I’ve a lot to be grateful for. The Big Issue has given me an opportunity to take positive steps, help some others out, and put a few smiles on people’s faces.
If I won the lottery… I’d buy a huge big house and allow homeless people to live there rent-free for a year to let them rebuild. Some people just need a chance to rebuild, like I have.
My favourite place… Cathedral Green in Exeter. There’s a lovely atmosphere on a summer’s day. So many people taking time out, it’s peaceful and friendly.
On my pitch… I’m at Martins Lane, Exeter, daily from from 8am to 3pm
Photo: Steven Haywood
St Martin's Church, Cathedral Close, Exeter, United Kingdom