Driven Big Issue vendor Graham Churchill has worked himself out of rough sleeping by buying himself a £6,000 campervan with his Big Issue sales.
Graham was forced to sleep rough throughout the winter in Torquay after starting to sell the magazine outside the town’s Waterstones Union Street store in October last year.
But the 58-year-old told his regulars right from the beginning of his dream to own a motorhome and set about grafting to sell the magazine for six days a week to earn himself shelter.
Graham, who was made homeless after losing his job as a fitter and welder in London back in 2010, managed to save £6,000 to finally buy the Talbot Express motorhome in early March.
And the life-changing purchase came just in the nick of time – as the Beast from the East battered the UK with freezing temperatures and extreme snow storms shortly after.
“It was a lot better looking out at the snow through the window than being out in it, that’s for sure,” said Graham.
“I’ve been dreaming of getting one for ages and the change in my life that it has brought has been amazing. I’ve now got a place to sleep, a shower and a stove and I’m a very lucky man. I couldn’t have done it without The Big Issue. I love it, especially the social element of selling the magazine, and I’ll be continuing to work nine-to-five earning with The Big Issue to pay for tax and insurance and running the vehicle.”
Now greeted with a sea view in the morning after months of sleeping on the streets, Graham is grateful to the people of Torquay for helping him to achieve his dream.
It is not the first time that the vendor has tried to raise the funds needed to hit the road – he managed to get halfway to his £6,000 total two years ago in a previous stint with The Big Issue in Brighton before being forced to abandon his plans.
If you pay for the magazine you should always take it. Vendors are working for a hand up, not a handout.
Graham added: “The people of Torquay have been wonderful. I told my regulars from the word go in October that I was saving up for it and they have supported me with so many offers of pots and pans, blankets and more, it’s been great.
“Waterstones [was] also really supportive, they helped me with £100 towards my total at Christmas and they have always made sure I was watered and fed. And Steve [Carter] couldn’t do enough for me, he’s been brilliant.”
Steve Carter, Big Issue Devon and Cornwall team leader, said: “Graham’s an absolutely brilliant vendor, an ideal vendor. He absolutely deserves this – he has worked his backside off for six days-a-week and he’s a very happy man now. He even took a week off to fully savour it and rightly so. Where he has parked gives him a great view of the sea and it is a huge difference for him after spending so much time sleeping out in the cold next to the coast. I’m delighted for him.”
Waterstones Torquay managers Paul Stevenson and Charlie Wood also paid tribute to Graham’s hard work and added: “Graham is a constant positive presence, he lifts everyone’s mood. Throughout the day Graham is continuously chatting to a variety of different people, it’s very rare to see him alone.”