FOREWORD, MY LIFE

I am Susan Alderman.

I live in Hendon.

I was born in North London and come from a large family, but my parents are both deceased, and my siblings have moved away so I don’t see them very much

What I’m doing now, selling the Big Issue is a real live saver for me. It’s a hand up, not a hand-out, as they say, and it’s has kept me off the streets.

I had a partner who was abusive to me both aspects, mentally and physically, so I know what it’s like to experience that. But when I got away, I actually made myself homeless because I had nowhere else to go.

Living in the streets was difficult and dangerous, particularly for a woman but also for men as well, because anything can happen. “Life is about people, and the sad thing is that a lot of people have turned very selfish in this day and age, and forget that there is always someone out there doing worse than themselves. I hear a lot and see a lot and while I’ve been in a bad situation there are lot of people doing worse, and they’re the sort of people we need to help” I’ m ashamed to admit it but I had to beg for money to buy food for some time. We’ve all done it. I never bought alcohol or drugs but there is a lot of misery out there and lot of people can’t handle it so it’s their only way of coping.

I was very lucky though. Some kind people pointed me to an outreach team that came to my rescue and got me off the streets and into accommodation. These volunteer organizations do exist, but most people don’t know about them or how to access them, so I feel fortunate in this regard.

I’m on universal credit (£335 a month) from the government but the Big Issue (a street newspaper that offers homeless people the opportunity to earn an income) helps me survive, and I earn a legitimate income selling these magazines at the tube station almost every day. I pay £1.50 an issue and sell it for £3.00. It’s hard to say how many I’ll sell in a day, some days its only 3-4, but never more than 8-10. Without the tip money this job would be extremely hard. It’s not a lot of money. You put in a lot of hours but it’s rewarding and that what it’s about, keeping yourself above water.

What bit of money I’ve got I need to budget carefully to survive. I have enough for food, that’s the most important thing. Food prices are definitely going up and people will need to work more and more to make ends meet. Lately we’ve had a lot of mild winters so I’ll be alright but that’s not say you won’t get a bad winter this year. It’s horrible to say but sometimes you just need to put a few extra layers on. You certainly can’t afford to put your heating on. You shouldn’t have to walk around the house with your coat on but unfortunately a lot of people do to keep warm. I’m more worried about the elderly who are more prone to feeling the cold, than about myself though.

My main challenge at this time is finding a suitable home. I’ve moved around a couple of hostels and temporary places but would like to find decent accommodation. The problem is that there isn’t enough council housing to go around, and priority is given to families with children, not single people like myself, who are in a lower tier. But at least I am off the streets.

I’ve been fortunate to have come across some really nice people to help me, like the outreach team and volunteers who helped me get online for my universal credit application. I’m grateful for that. There’s not a lot that I need – I certainly don’t plan to get rich. If I won millions in the lottery, a lot of that I’d give away to help people that are marginalized and need it.

Getting by from day to day with food to eat and clean accommodation is all I need. I’m happy then.

Life is about people, and the sad thing is that a lot of people have turned very selfish in this day and age, and forget that there is always someone out there doing worse than themselves. I hear a lot and see a lot and while I’ve been in a bad situation there are lot of people doing worse, and they’re the sort of people we need to help.

Susan Alderman
London