I was born in Taree. My mum had 10 children. I’ve moved around a bit, haven’t got any family. I’d been in foster care and homes for a long time.
I was a slow learner at school. I couldn’t read or write – it was quite challenging for me. I can’t remember when I left.
I’ve been homeless, living on the streets. It was tough. I lived at Kings Cross for a bit, Central Station. I asked people for money and I’d go to St Vincent de Paul.
The Big Issue is my first job. I was homeless when I first started selling the magazine, and I was working selling the magazine before I went into jail for eight months. When I got out, I went into the city at Christmastime. I saw someone selling the magazine in Glebe and I got a bit curious about it again. I bought a Big Issue from him because it reminded me of when I used to work there, and he told me to sign up again, so I did. I called the number inside the mag and I cried when I talked to Chris at Vendor Support; I’ve known him for a long time, so it was a bit of an emotional phone call. I love being a part of The Big Issue.
I started selling again on my birthday last year. I was born on 22 April, so I’ve just had my birthday. This year was a good one – we had birthday cake, birthday presents.
I live in Blacktown now. Since I got out of jail, I have 24-hour support for my disability, from people who look after me. Having somewhere to live is fantastic. I’ve got people to take care of me, I’ve got people to hang out with and say hi to. I go to church on Sunday and I’ve got good friends there too. But no-one’s brave enough to watch horror movies with me! I’m into horror movies. I like Wolf Creek and I like Freddy Krueger. They don’t scare me.
I usually sell the magazine once a week. People are very nice to me, and getting out there and earning money is great. People give me a lot of tips. I don’t have many regular customers, but last week in Parramatta a guy got me a $50 tip. I used the money to buy some clothes, and also some food for my cat Soxie, who is about two years old now. I’ve had her since she was six weeks old. She’s a rescue cat. She loves her food – cat food and biscuits. I’ve just got the one cat, and one of my fighting fish died, so I’ve just got one of those too.
I wanna thank the customers in Parramatta for buying The Big Issue off me. I can’t wait to get my photo done. I’ve gotta decide what to wear! I got some eyeshadow for my birthday.
Helen sells The Big Issue outside 7-Eleven on Church Street, Parramatta, Sydney
Interview by Melissa Fulton
Photo by Autumn Mooney