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Big Issue vendor’s emotional story of homelessness has starring role in Christmas film

Big Issue vendor Alfie Brew's remarkable turnaround after eight years on the streets is featured in St Petrock’s touching Christmas film

Big Issue vendor Alfie Brew

Alfie Brew is joined by dog Bambi in the emotional film. Image: St Petrock's / AllTold

Big Issue vendor Alfie Brew’s emotional journey out of homelessness has taken on a starring role in a touching Christmas charity video.

Brew, who sells the magazine at Co-op on Cowick Street in Exeter, tells the story of how he spent eight years on the streets and battled drug addiction before being supported off the streets with the help of Exeter charity St Petrock’s and Big Issue.

Appearing in his Big Issue tabard alongside pet dog Bambi, 28-year-old Brew is one of four people sharing how they have turned their lives around after facing homelessness in the two-minute film.

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Looking back at his time on the streets, Brew said: “I was grateful for a shop doorway, as often there are shutters nowadays. You have to put cardboard down to stop the damp getting in and you get ill in the winter. Once I caught pneumonia and almost died.

“At Christmas it was really hard, I used to watch people walking by with their children and felt invisible and lonely. If someone stopped to talk to me it made my day. One Christmas when it was cold, a lady bought some warm clothes for me.

”When St Petrock’s brought me hot coffee and breakfast in the morning after a freezing night, it meant everything.”

This Christmas will be the first time Brew, who is originally from Worthing, West Sussex, has been in his own home for the festive season in years following spells spent rough sleeping and in prison.

Brew said selling the Big Issue has helped him conquer his mental health and addiction issues and he is now looking forward to spending Christmas with his fiancee Naomi and dogs Bambi, China and Wrinkles.

Big Issue vendor Alfie Brew
Alfie, pictured with pet dog Bambi, told the Big Issue selling the magazine gives him a mental health boost. Image: St Petrock’s

“I’ve been drug free for two years. That’s due to the Big Issue, the Big Issue got me clean,” the Big Issue vendor said.

“It’s going to be our first proper Christmas indoors. Our place is lovely – it’s better than a doorway and it’s better than a tent. It’s somewhere I can go and shut the door and at night time I’ve got nothing to worry about. We’ve been there since the ninth of August and it was a big moment when I came indoors. It was overwhelming.”

St Petrock’s said the film comes as the number of people sleeping rough in Exeter remains “critically high” with between 25 and 35 people sleeping rough in the city on a typical night.

The charity was one of many frontline organisations who convinced Devon County Council to pause planned cuts to homelessness prevention services in August.

Although St Petrock’s was not one of the contract providers for the services, the charity successfully argued that the cuts would force more people onto the streets in Exeter.

St Petrock’s director Peter Stephenson said the new film, which will be screened on rugby union side Exeter Chiefs’ big screens as well as on social media, shows there’s “always hope”.

“Sadly, we’re all too familiar with seeing people living on our streets and of course there are many others, hidden from view, sleeping in garages or sheds, on sofas or in cars,” said Stephenson.

“It is incomprehensible that some still try to portray rough sleeping as if it were a lifestyle choice. No one chooses to be homeless.

“Our film proves that no matter how long anyone has been homeless or however desperate they have become, there’s always hope. Lives can be rebuilt and that’s what we try to do each day.”

Donations to St Petrock’s Christmas Appeal 2023 can be made by visiting the charity’s website.

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