Patrick Keenan, age 37, Waitrose Car Park, New Malden
I’ve been selling the Issue since I became homeless five years ago. It beats being down and out and it pays the bills. I sell most days unless I’m sick.
Pretty much all the papers I sell are to regulars and I know most of them by first name. They chat to me about everything: from what’s in the Issue, to science and literature.
I used to write pieces for The Big Issue writing group and my customers would chat to me about my writing. Most of my regular customers are not rich people; they are ordinary people with their own troubles. Half the time they actually come up to me just to get stuff off their chests. Some are just looking for someone to talk to, mostly the older people.
There is one vendor who is a good mate of mine and we share a flat together. I started selling The Big Issue so I could get together the money to make a deposit on a flat. The past year and a half I’ve signed on, I’ve got housing benefit and I’ve lived in a hostel. It’s such a relief to have the flat, it’s ridiculous.
Originally I’m from Dublin. Around 10 years ago I moved to California for two years, then I travelled around Europe for about a year and then up to Edinburgh. When I split up with my girlfriend there I left her in the flat. I moved to Derbyshire, then to Manchester and then to London. It was a good journey until I ended up on the streets!
At that point I didn’t have any problems. But the streets have taught me how to do drugs. It’s the only way you can get to sleep most nights when you are sleeping rough. You can’t even get your hands out of your sleeping bag it’s that cold, so you take drugs to pass out. It’s bloody horrible.
I’m interested in a lot of stuff – science, history, geology, astrology, astronomy. If I get a job I’d make sure I still had a lot of time to read.
I've met Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay. He’s dropped me a few quid a few times. I was quite chuffed. I didn’t realise who it was until he was gone. He doesn’t say much, he just flies past occasionally.
Interview by Emma Field
Photo: Tom Campbell