Here at You Over Me, we see the power of engaging with others. So as part of our interview series, we took some time yesterday to talk to another special friend, Sandra (she preferred not to be pictured). A 22 year old girl that lives in a homeless shelter and has been selling The Big Issue for a few years. I’ve known Renae for over a year now, as I walk past her everyday to work, and make sure that I purchase a $6 copy of the magazine to not only start my day, but help make her day just that little bit brighter. Maybe it’s the similarity of our ages that draws me to her, or maybe it’s the warm smile that she gives me every time she sees me. Here is her story:
Q1: Hello again! So to those who don’t know you, tell them a little bit about yourself.
I was born in the Queen Victoria Hospital where my mum was also born. I grew up with a learning disability, and all throughout school I had help from the School Services Officers. As I couldn’t learn really hard stuff, I became interested in making things with my hands, and my favourite subject at school was woodwork, where I made a whole lot of stuff- a coffee table, a chopping board for my mum, a spice rack. I did this right through school and even completed Year 12 in 2011.
Q2: I can’t even make that! I wouldn’t even know where to start…What did you do after school?
When I finished, I tried to get jobs but couldn’t find anything too serious due to my disability- Subway, Foodland, at shopping centre food courts mainly. I worked a lot as my mum passed away, and I needed money to support myself. I did other jobs like delivering catalogues and stuff but didn’t get a lot of money out of it.
Q3: How did you come to sell The Big Issue? Does it help you out a bit?
My friend from the shelter at the time was selling it on the streets, and he told me about it. When they trained me and told me what to do, it wasn’t too hard to understand so that was good. The first day that I started, I sold all my magazines in two hours and saved some of the money from it as well. I really like it as I also get to meet other people in a similar position to mine, and we help each other out. I know that it’s not what I want to do forever, but right now, it helps me stay off the streets and into the shelter for $25 a night.
Q4: Describe your average day.
I’ll start my day at 7am and work until 2pm so that I get the morning rush. My favourite spot is near the Strand Arcade because other vendors sit there as well, and it’s nice to see some friendly faces.
Q5: So where do you want to go from here?
Right now, I’m trying to save up to go to TAFE. I really want to get my Certificate II in Furniture Making and Certificate II in Construction, as I think I can do it and I have always liked making stuff, using my hands. My motto is ‘keep moving forward, don’t let anything hold you back”.
Initiatives like The Big Issue give the homeless or disadvantaged opportunities to reach higher and not simply beg for money. Like Renae, many of them do work, contrary to popular belief. They are still homeless due to the fact that they are currently working for minimum wage, but that doesn’t mean that they will be at that point forever. It might be a pitstop for some, or a giant stepping stone for others. I really do hope that Renae succeeds in life, I sure will be there to help her out on her journey. Watch this space.
Written by JC