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Worldwide Vendor Spotlight: Jack Ryan

 Street News Service 02 August 2019

Having suffered institutionalised abuse from a young age, Jack Ryan was homeless by age 16. His traumatic upbringing was a catalyst for a life of alcohol and drug abuse, interspersed with a happy but failed marriage that had temporarily offered solace from the streets. Now, through working for the Big Issue in Liverpool and Ireland, he is putting his life back together piece by piece and helping others do the same. (655 Words) - By Staff writer


Worldwide Vendor Spotlight

 Jack Ryan, Ireland's Big Issue. Photo: Street News Service

Vendor: Jack Ryan

Street paper: Ireland's Big Issue

City: Dublin, Ireland

My name is Jack Ryan. I first came to work for The Big Issue in Liverpool, the year was 1997, my job was being a street vendor. As an Irishman selling the magazines on the streets of Liverpool I was not alone, there was a strong Irish contingent selling the Issues. This is something I have noticed about Dublin. There are not as many Irish people willing to stand out on the streets in this often-inclement weather. This is sad, I think and accounts for why the magazine is not as popular here as in Liverpool.

The first time I became homeless I was only 16 years of age. My father passed away and my mum came to live in the house and looked after me. My mum and dad had been separated for many years, so my old man had charge of me and my brother Tom, well me really, as Tom was in Letterfrack going through his own kind of hell, but we did not know about that back then.

Well, my mother would not or could not pay the rent on our corporation flat. My mom was an alcoholic and I became homeless at 16 years of age. In many ways I was set up to be an addict and alcoholic. If my poor brother Tom was living his own nightmare in Galway I was been raped on a daily basis by a very sick man I called father. I lived with the Dublin Simon Community from 17 years of age until I was 21. I then took my own bedsit in the town of Clontarf until I was 23, when I first got married. My marriage came to an end when I was 36 years old and I became homeless for the second time in my life.

I first came in contact with The Big Issue in Liverpool back in 1996, at that stage of my life I was sleeping rough in a park. I had also become a heroin addict when I was in my forties. The Issues helped me right from the word go in their hostel in Seal Street, these were the sisters of charity, Mother Theresa was their leader at the time. Well these lovely sisters nursed me back to health and off heroin. Meanwhile the Issues continued to support me with paid work, they also set up a counselor for me and I don't mind saying, without them I would be dead.

I came back to Ireland in 1999 and for a few years I stayed sober and clean. In 2003 my poor brother Tom took his own life. Tom never learned to talk about what happened to him at the hands of the Christian Brothers, except to me, then only when he had drink taken. Sadly I went back using and drinking after the death of Tom but I have now managed to arrest my addiction a day at a time. I now have a new home and have started to work for Ireland's Big Issue and I will say it again: England or Ireland - I know for me selling the magazines has been a big step on the road to survival and up and out of homelessness. I would be lost without them.

Unfortunately I do not enjoy good health at the moment but when I improve I am going to visit local hostels with a member of Ireland's Big Issue with a view to convincing more Irish people to take up the Issues. Also I would like to encourage and empowered more homeless people to write their own short stories, poems or views in the Big Issues. I have lots of suggestions and ideas, which I hope, will help the magazine survive. I would like to thank all the people who buy the magazine from me.

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