A former Big Issue vendor has completed his journey from the streets to be named “London’s happiest bus driver”.
Patrick Lawson, 50, from Finsbury Park, spent 20 years sleeping rough punctuated with spells in prison before selling The Big Issue in Russell Square and Mayfair.
He teamed up with the charity Single Homeless Project in 2016 at its Islington Aftercare Service, which supported the former bus driver to rebuild his confidence, encouraging him to renew his licence and retrain.
Stories to #inspire: former #homeless man becomes #London’s happiest bus driver – thanks to #charity (@SHPcharity) that helped him turn his life around: https://t.co/FBIpCcxmJm #EndHomelessness #SocialHousing #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/25i8HV7miW
— Homefinder UK (@homefinderuk) January 7, 2019
Patrick scooped a job behind the wheel with social enterprise HCT Group and took over the number 26 route from Hackney Wick to Waterloo Station.
Since then, he has flourished, attracting 66 commendations from passengers and winning the Hello London Award for Outstanding Community Service at TfL’s London Bus Awards. He also named a finalist in the Top London Bus Driver category at the UK Bus Awards.
The Big Issue is a multi award-winning magazine, edited by the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) current Editor of the Year.
“I’ve been homeless, I’ve been in prison, I’ve been an addict,” said Patrick. “I often thought how did I get here? Without SHP and Big Issue’s support, I’d still be on benefits. Now I’m now a tax-paying citizen and everything.
“The Big Issue played a big part as did the other charities organisations that helped me out and that’s why I want to give something back to them.
“Being homeless was hell and felt like the hardest things could possibly get, but beating addiction was even harder. But now I’m positive and don’t blame everyone and the world for my problems.
“That’s thanks to The Big Issue who helped me to help myself and I’m truly humbled by that.”
Patrick was introduced to The Big Issue by another rough sleeper and, after overcoming his initial nerves, became popular selling in Mayfair, Russell Square and Covent Garden.
He eventually had to stop selling the magazine after six years – but credits The Big Issue with helping him to secure his first-ever bedsit – a time he describes as “the best in his life” – before writing to Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn to secure a three-bedroom flat where he lives to this day.
Those steps proved instrumental in getting Patrick to where he is today – “loving” his job as a bus driver.
And it shows in the comments that Patrick has received with some hailing him as “happiest bus driver in London”.
“People always ask why I’m so happy” said Pat, after receiving the London gong. “It’s just if I’m not smiling or talking to people, I’m miserable. It’s a conscious decision to do more every day, to sort my face out.
“I just want people to get on my bus to lower their guard, smile and have a good time. People seem to enjoy it more, talk between them. I want to enhance their journey.
“I’m a human being first, so I don’t just act like the bus driver. I act like the passenger too, and how I’d want that bus to be.”
It’s just if I’m not smiling or talking to people, I’m miserable. It’s a conscious decision to do more every day, to sort my face out
Lawrence Wilson, director for London at HCT Group, added: “Patrick has come through a difficult time and, with the help of organisations like the Single Homeless Project and our own learning centre, he has really turned his life around.
“He truly deserves the bus-driving accolades and awards he has received.”
Images: Alex Grace