I looked after my mum for five years because she had Alzheimer’s and when she passed away I moved in with my partner. I had to move out when we broke up and that was it, basically. I did a bit of sofa-surfing with friends at first but eventually I ended up living under a bridge near to where my mum and I used to live. After a while I managed to put up a tent there and that was where I lived for about two-and-a-half years. I just piled on the sleeping bags and blankets when it got cold.
When I first started selling The Big Issue, my GP was over 15 miles away, but Katie, the Service Broker from The Big Issue Foundation made sure I knew where the local walk-in centre was. She also made sure I was aware of the winter night shelter in case I needed to get out of the cold.
In the end I thought, “I’m getting a bit old for this” so I went into emergency accommodation, which was a Bed & Breakfast, for nearly two years. Then last Christmas I went to my friend’s house. She lives in a block of flats, so she called her landlord and he said he had a flat going. I moved in on January 4th this year. It’s coming together slowly but surely.
October 1st was my five-year anniversary selling The Big Issue. I’ve had the same pitch throughout and I’ve got quite a few regulars now. At the moment I have a giraffe with pears all over him next to my pitch. It’s a campaign called Standing Tall in Worcester, in aid of St Richard’s Hospice, and there are 60 decorated giraffes all over town. It’s a game for kids – they have to mark each giraffe off as they find them.
The Big Issue Foundation Vendor Support Fund helped me to get a passport, open a bank account and buy a microwave for my new flat. The fund is a vital life-line when you’re trying to get back on track and piece your life back together.
This job is my social life. Sometimes I spend more time talking than I do selling, but that’s the way it goes. I really enjoy it. I’d go mad if I was stuck in my flat all day. I’ve got about 20 or 30 regulars who always turn up. A positive attitude helps. A customer once brought me a big bag of coppers and said it was my lucky day. I said, “Every day’s a lucky day as I’m still breathing!” As long as I wake up in the morning and can get out and do what I want to do then I’m happy.