Begging man in front of Greggs tells how his wife’s death led to a ‘soul-destroying’ spiral

Richie Nicholson, 40, used to be an established chef. But after the death of his wife, he was forced to beg outside of Greggs – and described his reality today as “soul crushing”.

Former chef Richie Nicholson, 40, is now begging outside Greggs in Leeds city center despite being an established chef
Former chef Richie Nicholson, 40, is now begging outside Greggs in Leeds city center despite being an established chef

A former chef has opened up about how his life has been turned upside down and is now forced to sit in front of Greggs and beg for food since his wife tragically died.

Richie Nicholson, 40, used to be a chef in Leeds – specializing in French cuisine. Today his life is much different than before, he reports Leeds lives.

The father of one child now sits daily outside a Greggs in Leeds city center in Kirkgate.

He says he doesn’t know what else to do with himself after his wife died and now he has “nowhere else to go and nothing else to do”.

Richie discovered that not many people carry loose change, so he decided Greggs was the best place to beg.

In the age of contactless payment, he says, in the vicinity of the chain pastry shop he occasionally gives someone without change a pie or a sandwich on a card.

Richie says that when he’s begging, unfortunately he gets all kinds of name-calling all the time, calling it “soul-wrecking.”

But the ex-chef says positive interaction is rare.

He says: “They call me Smackhead, I get all kinds of abuse all the time. There’s only about 1 percent of people who are actually okay with you.

“People always pretend they haven’t seen you, turn around. Every now and then someone will stand up and talk to you and that means a lot.

“It’s soul crushing out here, it really is. The way I see it, what else would I do now? I’m an alcoholic, I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. I need food too, so I’m sitting in front of Greggs.”

As the father of a 14-year-old boy, he admits he’s an alcoholic but hasn’t touched the stuff in a long time.

He thought he’d had his whole life together; Wife, kids and a home, but it all collapsed after his wife died.

Richie worked as a chef at The New Queen in Methley in his 20s, the pub had a French menu. He lived with his girlfriend at the time, who was a waitress there, above the former pub.

But many don’t know that Richie’s life had a turbulent past. He has been on and off the road since he was a child.

“I was homeless for four years when I was 14 because you can’t get an apartment until you’re 18. When you’re on this cycle from a young age, it’s so easy to slip through the net. I used to struggle with addiction,” he said.

But he worked to improve, working as a chef and eventually moving on to gardening and roofing jobs. In his spare time he played the guitar and became a skilled musician.

10 years ago he met his deceased partner who also had children and they got married and lived a happy life together.

Work was going well until he fell off his bike, slipping a disc in his spine and suffering chronic nerve damage. Then life got even harder when his partner started struggling with mental health issues and heard angry voices that weren’t there.

Before his wife died, they had some problems and he didn’t know what to do. He said: “I was like ‘I can’t handle this on my own, I need help’ and the next thing I hear…”

Richie said he now feels “too old” for life on the road, but he’s slipped through the net once again, like many others out there.

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