I was out of home very early, around 15, 16. We just had a big family breakdown. My stepfather passed away, and we moved from Sydney to northern New South Wales, like Byron Bay. I probably lasted about three, four months, then I went back to Sydney, out on my own. Being a teenager, I guess, I was given an ultimatum, and I left. I look back on it now and it obviously wasn’t the right move to make but, at the time, there was a lot going on. That was in 1998.

I sort of just winged it and survived. To be honest, me being a kid, those kinda places were actually very dangerous. I had people keeping me out of trouble to a certain extent… It could have been a lot worse.

I was working in nightclubs in the Cross. But I was underage, so I kind of got into a bit of trouble. I went back home to my mum’s, didn’t like it, and then came to Melbourne in 2000. There was a girl who I was seeing whose family moved down here. The rest is history.

I’ve been homeless on and off over the years. I only got housed the Christmas before last. It’s only been since I had children, in later life, that I’ve changed. I’ve got two daughters: Simina and Michaela. I really take my kids very seriously. They’re what I’m most proud of.

I’ve enrolled in courses and everything. I’ve started a drug and alcohol course, Certificate IV, studying online with Odyssey House. And I’m doing an art course. I’ve never really done that sort of stuff, but now I’m making an effort to keep me out of trouble.

I’m trying to plan a trip to Thailand. I’ve gone from watching rubbish on YouTube to watching videos about Thailand. I want to go to the Tiger Cave Temple, with 1200 or so steps you have to walk up. I reckon I’ll be able to do it.

I’ve had this health problem, spinal stenosis, for the last two years. I was initially homeless at the time when that first happened. I just couldn’t walk, I’d fall over. I couldn’t even walk one block. I had a very serious spinal operation. Now I’ve got nerve damage, and my leg feels like it’s on fire. There are no answers, and it’s been very stressful. It’s taken me a lot to get to where I am now. I wasn’t even leaving my house at one stage – I’m very vulnerable and was confused about what was going on. From getting out of the house to managing my money better…it’s changed my life completely.

Since I’ve been selling The Big Issue, I haven’t gone without a coffee or loaf of bread or anything like that, and those things make a big difference in your life. Whatever effort I’ve put in, I’ve gotten back out of it. I genuinely appreciate when people come up and see me. I’ve had some people come up and say, “You’re doing really, really well,” and I’m thinking, How do you know I’m doing well? I think they know me from when I was homeless.

Simon sells The Big Issue at Melbourne Central, IGA West Footscray, and corner Collins and Swanston Sts, Melbourne

Interview by Amy Hetherington
Photo by James Braund

Published in #708