A former chef has opened up about how his life turned upside down and is now forced to sit outside Greggs begging for food ever since his wife died under tragic circumstances.
Richie Nicholson, 40, used to be a chef in Leeds – specialising in French cuisine. Today, his life is a lot more different to the one he was used to, report Leeds Live.
The father-of-one now sits outside a Leeds city centre Greggs in Kirkgate, on a daily basis.
He says he’s at a complete loss of what else to do with himself following the passing of his wife, now having “nowhere else to go, and nothing else to do”.
Richie discovered not many people carry loose change, and so he decided Greggs was the best place to beg.
In the age of contactless payments, he says if he’s by the chain pastry shop, every now and again someone without change will grab him a pasty or a sandwich on card.
But, the ex chef says that any positive interaction is rare.
He says: “They call me smackhead, I get all sorts of abuse all of the time. There’s only like one per cent of people who are actually alright with you.
“People always pretend they haven’t seen you, turn the other way. Every now and again, someone will stand and talk to you and that means a lot.
“Out here it’s soul destroying, it really is. The way I see it is what else would I be doing right now? I’ve got an alcohol addiction, I’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. I need something to eat as well, that’s why I sit outside Greggs.”
As the father to a 14-year-old boy, he admits he’s an alcoholic but hasn’t touched the stuff for a long time.
He thought he’d had his whole life together; wife, kids and a home but this all came falling apart after his wife died.
Richie used to work at The New Queen in Methley as a commissary chef in his 20s, the pub had a French cuisine menu. He lived above the former pub with his girlfriend, who was a waitress there at the time.
But unbeknownst to many, Richie’s life had a chequered past. He’d been on and off the streets ever since he was a child.
“I was homeless for four years when I was 14 as you can’t get a flat until you’re 18. Once you’re in that cycle from a young age, it’s just so simple to slip through the net. I used to struggle with addiction,” he said.
But he worked to better himself, working as a chef then eventually going into gardening and roofing. In his spare time, he played the guitar and became a skilled musician.
He met his late partner 10 years ago, who also had children, and they married, living a happy life together.
Work was all going well until he fell off a bike, slipping a disc in his spine and suffering chronic nerve damage. Then life became even more difficult when his partner began struggling with mental health issues, hearing angry voices that weren’t there.
Prior to his wife’s death, they were experiencing some issues and he was at a loss of what to do. He said: “I thought ‘I can’t cope with this on my own, I need help’ and the next thing I hear…”
Richie has said he feels “too old” for life on the streets now but once again, he’s slipped through the net like many others out there.
If you have concerns for someone sleeping rough.