A homeless Big Issue seller is getting married – to a woman he met when he asked her for money while BEGGING.
Jack Richardson, 37, first met wife-to-be Toni Robinson almost two years ago, when he asked her for money as she passed his regular road-side pitch.
But Toni apologised saying that she had none – and kind-hearted Jack ended up giving her 50p for her electricity meter, so she wouldn’t have to spend Christmas in the dark.
Over the next year, Toni often walked past Jack’s Big Issue pitch, next to a bin outside Boston Tea Party on Park Street, in central Bristol, and they became close friends.
So when Jack’s squat in the upmarket suburb of Clifton got boarded just before Christmas last year, leaving him without a roof over his head, Toni offered to put him up.
The pair fell for each other – and Jack never left.
And earlier this month, one year of living under the same roof, Jack got down on one knee on his Big Issue selling pitch, and asked Toni to be his wife.
Jack, who was made homeless in 2012 and now works seven days a week selling the Big Issue, said: “I was in a really bad place when I met Toni.
“I was having to beg every day just to get enough money for a night in a bed and breakfast.”
“It was coming up to Christmas 2013 and I wandered up to this woman to ask her for money and she just burst into tears.
“She had bought everything ready for Christmas and thought she had saved enough money for the meter, but when she put it in it wasn’t enough.
“She was a couple of pennies away from spending Christmas in the dark. Even though I was begging, I gave her the 50p to put her lights back on.”
Over the coming months, Jack and Toni exchanged words as she walked past his pitch, and they gradually built up a firm friendship.
Their relationship turned romantic when they began living together – and on November 3 this year, when Jack proposed to Toni on his usual selling pitch, she said yes.
Jack said: “When I first met Toni, it through me off guard completely. It completely took me by surprise. She had that effect on me from the very first moment.
“We began talking to each other every few weeks as she walked by. At first it was trivial stuff, but then we began sharing a lot and becoming quite close.
“When I went to stay with her we fell for each other.
“Every day used to be a struggle. I had considered ending my own life. I couldn’t see any way out of the situation and it just seemed to keep getting harder.
“I couldn’t see any future. But now I have someone stable who I love and who loves me. I’m able to look to the future.”
“I didn’t think anyone could possible be romantically interested in someone who lived in a garage. Everything has changed.
“Essentially I’ve gone from being a tramp living in a garage, to living indoors with an amazing woman.
“I have never felt so intensely and deeply about anything before in my life. It’s amazing.”
Toni, who is unable to work due to health issues, said she was as blown away by Jack as he was by her.
The 47-year-old, of Clifton, Bristol, said: “Jack has always said that I saw through the homeless person and saw the person underneath.
“I have had people ask me for money before, and when I couldn’t afford to give them any I would get upset.
“But Jack went into his pocket and gave me what I needed. Someone without a roof over his head had enough money to help me.
“He had dignity. It just really blew me away. I was so thrown, I gave him a hug.”
“The next time I bumped into him, he had his Big Issue badge. I kept seeing him, and the more I did, the more I liked him.
“Before, I was bumbling around on my own. He has changed my outlook on everything completely.
“It has been one mad love story.”
Jack and Toni plan to get married early next year, and hope to have a traditional but intimate ceremony, with close friends and family.
One of Jack’s regulars is a vicar who has promised to officiate at the service and provide the location, while another is a hairdresser who can do Toni’s hair.
Another does wedding photography and yet another is a graphic designer who will design all the invitations.
Someone has even promised to put on a buffet for the couple, so guests can have something to nibble on at their pub reception.
As well as preparing for his wedding, Jack is studying for an Open University degree in psychology and sociology, and hopes to help people off the streets when he graduates.
He added: “If we had planned it, it couldn’t have turned out better.”