Ricky Gleeson sold The Big Issue magazine as a teenager in Newcastle. Image: Supplied
A former Big Issue vendor who turned his life around has opened a new sportswear shop just yards from where he used to sell the magazine in Newcastle.
Ricky Gleeson, 45, started selling the magazine at the age of 18 after becoming homeless in South Shields and spent 18 months working as a vendor at Newcastle’s Monument Mall.
After he stopped selling the magazine he spent 13 years in the Royal Navy and has now opened vintage sportswear shop Sports Traider in Newcastle city centre.
Gleeson said his spell on the streets and selling The Big Issue continues to impact his life as he works on his new venture.
“I was thrown out when I was 16,” said Gleeson. “I came from a troubled background and that was that. I was either in bed or breakfast or sofa surfing and there was the occasional time where I slept on the street.
“I was homeless until my mid-20s on and off and for a good seven years straight and it is pretty much burned into my DNA even now and I’m 45. I would say that homelessness is the single biggest thing that shaped my career for the rest of my life.
“I used The Big Issue for what it needs to be used for sometimes. I bought the magazine for a price and I sold them for more and that gave me enough money to eat and look after myself for a bit. That shouldn’t be underestimated, it kept me alive.”
After selling The Big Issue, Gleeson travelled around the country and even ended up volunteering in Africa before he joined the Royal Navy at the age of 31.
Sports Traider is a chain of charity shops from across the UK, selling pre-loved sportswear to raise funds for sporting opportunities for children in deprived areas while also supporting young offenders in Gleeson’s native north-east.
When most people think about the Big Issue, they think of vendors selling the Big Issue magazines on the streets – and we are immensely proud of this. In 2022 alone, we worked with 10% more vendors and these vendors earned £3.76 million in collective income. There is much more to the work we do at the Big Issue Group, our mission is to create innovative solutions through enterprise to unlock opportunity for the 14million people in the UK living in poverty.