I was born in Hamilton, New Zealand. I lived there until I was about 10. Dad was a truck driver, so Mum mostly looked after my two brothers, my sister and me. New Zealand’s a beautiful country, with a lot of sheep and snow. I do get homesick. I don’t have any family in NZ anymore.
There were some complications with my birth and I’ve been in a wheelchair pretty much my whole life. I’ve had polio, and my balance is poor. For a while, I had to wear a helmet.
For me, school wasn’t very good. I had a disability and had to go to special school, by taxi. I found it very difficult. I didn’t start talking until I was seven, and I can’t read. One day I hid in the cupboard at school. I hid there for the whole night while teachers and the police looked for me.
My parents split when I was 11. Later on, I was put in a boys’ home. Once I turned 18, I moved to Adelaide, and, after my dad passed away when I was 20, the rest of my family moved over here. In 2014, I lost Mum to cancer. My siblings are no longer with me.
I was living in a caravan. Disability SA gave me support and help, but that was my life for a while. Then I spent 30 or so years moving between different supported residences through the Housing Trust.
I have a lot of issues that people don’t understand: mental health, depression and anxiety. Diabetes, brain damage, blindness and polio. I’ve had a stroke. Some people don’t really know how to treat me sometimes.
The way I got to selling is I knew a few Big Issue vendors from around. I spoke to vendor Ron a few times about The Big Issue and he was especially encouraging. I love the job – I enjoy meeting people, and I’m great at calling out to people. The staff love me. You get regulars and sometimes different people too. Digital payments have been great. It’s great to be around others and share support and help other people too.
I met my fiancée about seven years ago, at the units where I was living. She has mental illness as well, so it’s nice to click with someone who understands what I’m going through. It’s hard sometimes to express how I feel. That’s what I’m hoping for; I want people to read this story and understand. I have to calm myself down a lot.
In my spare time I like watching DVDs – Batman is my favourite. I’m a Crows supporter, too, though I’ve never been to a game. Hopefully I will, one day. I like to share food with my housemate – me and him seem to click, and he’s happy with me.
I appreciate all the help and support I get from Disability SA. There are some lovely bosses and I appreciate all the staff at Park Holme on Marion Road. They help me get on the train to the city.
COVID has been tough, being stuck at home. I was bored and upset, short on money, and it was hard not working. I’m really excited to be back.
Chris C sells The Big Issue at Europcar, Bupa Dental and The Body Shop in Adelaide CBD.
Interview by Matt Stedman.
Photo by Nat Rogers.