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The Big Issue saved my life and got me off the streets; magazine seller tells success story.

Byline: NICOLE GOODWIN Reporter nicole.goodwin@trinitymirror.com @NicoleGoodwin92

DRESSED in bright red jackets, Big Issue vendors are certainly easy to find.

And regulars at Newcastle Central Station will likely recognise Earl Charlton, who has been pitched outside the station since 2017.

The 41-year-old has become a valued addition to the station and is popular with staff and regular passers-by.

At Christmas, he was gifted two large hampers from L NER and Northern Rail, which he described as an "overwhelmingly kind" gesture.

Earl says he loves his job as a Big Issue vendor.

"I've been on a bit of a helterskelter ride in my past but it's smoothing out now," he added.

"I'm looking forward to a better future thanks to The Big Issue."

Vendors buy magazines for PS1.25 and sell to the public for PS2.50.

The scheme aims to provide vendors with the means to earn a legitimate income.

Earnings from selling The Big Issue can vary massively, according to Earl.

And while magazine sales were good over the busy Christmas period, where he could sell 50 copies a week, January has so far been quiet.

It means Earl doubts that he will sell the 35 copies that he has purchased for the week, despite pitching from 10am until 4pm each day. Speaking about his pitch, Earl said that he addresses everyone with a smile and wishes them a good day so he does not appear intrusive.

He added that he would never approach students or families with children as they may also be struggling financially. However, perhaps the most unique addition to his pitch is the Union Jack flag in a water bottle that stands at his feet.

Earl said: "When I would pitch on the Quayside I would get comments from people saying things like 'go back home you dirty scumbag'.

"The Union Jack shows people where I come from and that I'm proud of who I am."

Starting out in London, Earl has been selling the weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine for 15 years and credits the company for turning his life around.

That is addiction my making keep a After fleeing a difficult life at home when he was just 14 years old, and then running away from care homes, Earl hitch-hiked his way around the country, before ending up on the streets of London.

Earl said: "I wanted to be a normal teenager and get on with my life.

"I was one of the top 10 kids in my school, but I couldn't be the kid I wanted to be when I was at home.

"So I hitch-hiked from the Tyne Tunnel A19 and found my own way in the world."

But at age 19, Earl had become addicted to cocaine, heroin and alcohol and found himself living on the street.

It was then that he met a Big Issue vendor and decided to start selling the magazine, which he now encourages homeless people in Newcastle to take up.

my new - paying bills and sure I can over my head Charlton Thanks to The Big Issue Foundation's Vendor Support Fund (VSF), which provides financial support for vendors to improve their lives, Earl was able to return to his Northern roots and address his drug and alcohol addictions.

The support fund contributed 60% of the costs to relocate Earl in South Shields and remove him from his difficult life in Hackney, London. The remaining 40% was funded by one of Earl's regular customers, who he met while selling the magazine in the capital. Earl said: "The Big Issue helped me get back home to South Shields where I was able to start my recovery and now I have been clean for threeand-a-half years. Selling The Big Issue keeps me focused and gives me a purpose to go back and pay my bills and feed my family.

"That is my new addiction - paying my bills and making sure I can keep a roof over my head so I don't go back on the pavement."

A spokesperson for The Big Issue said: "The Big Issue is a social enterprise which exists to dismantle poverty by creating opportunities, through selfhelp, social trading and business solutions. Vendors come from a variety of backgrounds and face a range of issues, but all are experiencing the effects of poverty.

"Upon becoming a Big Issue vendor they receive training, are allocated a fixed pitch from which to vend, and sign a vendor agreement, covering their conduct whilst selling the magazine. Since its launch in 1991, over 200 million copies of The Big Issue magazine have been sold by over 100,000 vulnerable people."

weekly entertainment current for he now people to Big lives"That is my new addiction - paying my bills and making sure I can keep a roof over my head Earl Charlton

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Earl Charlton, 41, selling The Big Issue outside Newcastle's Central Station, where he has pitched since 2017
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Author:NICOLE GOODWIN Reporter nicole.goodwin@trinitymirror.com @NicoleGoodwin92
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2020
Words:824
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