For many years, Earl Charlton was a beloved Big Issue vendor outside Newcastle Central Station.
Selling the magazine allowed Earl to turn his life around, escaping a cycle of homelessness and addiction. His story has inspired many, including chart-topping musician Sam Fender, who said “everybody in the country” should hear Earl talk about his life.
Now, thanks to a new poetry night run by Earl, people in the north east of England will have the chance to take Fender’s advice. The inspirational former Big Issue vendor will be among those performing at the event.
Late last year, Earl started working full time as a support worker with North Shields-based charity North East Homeless.
“It’s been nice, man,” said Earl. “I’m evolving every day. I’ve had 25 years of being on the street and being my own boss selling The Big Issue. I’m adapting.”
North East Homeless offers a range of services for people in the area who are vulnerable or homeless, including street outreach and training programmes.
At the heart of the charity is a vibrant community space called the The Fish Quay Hub, which is open to service users and the general public. It features a café and venue, and a social supermarket run on a ‘take what you need, leave what you can’ basis.
The venue has recently been granted a licence to put on events and, following a successful run of Euro 2020 viewing parties, Earl saw an opportunity to run his own gig.
As a published poet, who has performed his work for live audiences in the past, Earl was keen to make use of the space to bring together an evening of spoken word entertainment.
The event will have a dual purpose, Earl said – both as a fundraiser for North East Homeless and a place for people to share their stories.
“A lot of my life story I put in poetry,” said Earl. “And every spoken word night I’ve been to, they always have a very friendly atmosphere. Everyone’s got their own story.”
Taking place on August 27, Voice Notes Poetry will be free to attend, with guests encouraged to contribute to the charity by buying food and refreshments from the onsite café.
By bringing people into the The Fish Quay Hub, Earl also hopes to encourage people to access the help that’s available to them in the space.
“I can guarantee, in any audience there’ll be someone screaming for help,” said Earl. “They may not know where to go or who to talk to. If they come to North East Homeless and see what we’re about, they might feel they can talk about their problems and ask for help.”
People who may never previously have needed to access charity support are now struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, he added.
“You don’t have to be homeless to get help here,” said Earl. “We’ve had people coming in who are struggling because they’re on furlough, people who have lost their jobs, people who are embarrassed to access food banks. You have to be referred to food banks but not to our social supermarket.
“If you need some support with debt, drug and alcohol recovery or anything like that, come and see us. North East Homeless is for everyone.”
Urgent action is needed to prevent even more people being pushed into homelessness. A secure home is the first step in addressing the cruel cycle of poverty to ensure people can fulfil their potential. Join us to keep people in their homes.