Daniel Williams, Boots, Knightsbridge (Mon & Wed); Tesco Haven Green, Ealing (Tue, Thur & Fri)
Daniel Williams has recently returned to selling the magazine to help him through the cost of living crisis
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I’ve been selling The Big Issue since it started but I’ve been selling it on and off. I’ve only just come back about five months ago. It was the cost of living that brought me back this time. I just couldn’t make my benefit go far enough to keep electricity on the meter and food in the cupboard.
I can ask my family for help with the cost of living but at the same time my father’s a retired blind veteran so he’s not really able to help. And most of my siblings are on benefits so I guess they’re not in a position to help me. So it was either go back to selling The Big Issue or sit on the street begging. And I know which one I prefer: my comfy chair rather than the cold pavement.
I can sit here and I’ve got 10 magazines on my lap and they will probably last me the next few days but that’s enough for me to buy a load of bread and milk, some coffee if I need it or maybe put a tenner on the electric. I’m not out here to become a millionaire, I’m just here to survive.
I’ve become partially sighted. I’m completely blind in my left eye and I’m losing it in the right because I’ve got a hereditary condition that I was diagnosed with in 2016. I will lose my sight totally, like my dad. I’ve had 47 years to get used to it, I’ve had a life already. I already have to use a white stick some days when I have a bad day, but I’ll just try to be as normal as I can for as long as I can.
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I just make sure every Monday morning I’ve got £20 so I can buy 10 magazines. I’ve got my card reader and that actually helps with my sales. Nowadays not many people carry cash – I don’t even carry cash. I had it within a week of signing up to The Big Issue again. Using the card reader has made it easier for me because I can see the numbers on my phone whereas I can’t see when I’m counting change.
I was homeless here in London for 15 years so I know it like the back of my hand from west to east and north to south. There probably isn’t a borough I haven’t slept in. I haven’t always sold the magazine in London. I’ve sold in Brighton, Southampton, Liverpool, I even sold a street paper in Dublin.
Back in the day I had a drug habit so if the area went dry you’d just follow where you could get it, chasing the habit. I’m 15 years clean now. It took me about a year and a half to ask for help. I still go to AA meetings. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the urge. It’s just good to know that you’ve got a local meeting somewhere where you can go and have a chat with like-minded people. It sort of takes that anxiety away. I definitely feel a lot healthier.
It’s nice to have The Big Issue as something to fall back on because all the staff seem to be friendly. You get good advice and they even helped me get a bed for my flat. Maybe in a few months’ time I might put myself forward to be a vendor co-ordinator, distributing the magazine to other vendors.
I enjoy selling The Big Issue because I enjoy meeting all the people and making people smile if I can. You get people who walk past and look the other way and there’s the people who sit down with you and buy you a coffee and have a chat and want to know your story. That’s nice.
Words: Liam Geraghty
Boots, Brompton Road, London, UK