Bill Webb, 62, APCOA Car Park, Avenue Road, Bournemouth

"I've just started a new job as a tour guide"

In 2012 I was homeless in Margate for about six months and I was living in a cave. By March, my life wasn’t getting anywhere so I decided to walk around the coast with my dog Chloe. Without having the responsibility of looking after her I could have done something stupid. It took me about two-and-a-half months to get to Bournemouth and I spoke to a Big Issue vendor to ask where I could stay the night. We got chatting about The Big Issue so he convinced me to give it a go. I started it for two weeks, and here we are almost six years later.

When I walked into the office I needed help with a sick note and Employment Support Allowance, Liam from The Big Issue Foundation ensured that I got that help that day. I realised early on that I was going to need a lot of support and The Big Issue gave it to me without being pushy – I don’t think I could have handled any pressure at the time.

I have been working with The Big Issue speaking to students at Bournemouth University about my story

Now I have a council flat, I’m not receiving any benefit and I’ve just started a new job as a tour guide at Southbourne Ales – this would have been unthinkable even three months ago.

For four years I have been working with The Big Issue speaking to students at Bournemouth University about my story to tell them a bit more about homelessness. I’ve also given speeches ahead of the Big Issue Foundation’s Night Walk and Sleep Out events. The feedback we get is terrific as I always try to give plenty of information without snowing the students under, and they tend to engage with it and have plenty of questions.

It has certainly been excellent preparation for the job at Southbourne Ales, which I started on Good Friday, and has been going really well. I’ve always been into real ale when I used to run a pub on the Isle of Grain in Kent – we had six different beers on the bar over 18 months and I only repeated one due to customer demand. I’ll be on my pitch until April 24 while giving tours Wednesday to Sunday so it is a seven-day working week at the moment. I’ve brought leaflets from Southbourne to my pitch so hopefully I’ll see a few of my regulars down there for a tour.

My customers have been really supportive and I’ve already had 12 good luck cards. I want to take this opportunity to thank them and The Big Issue for all the support over the past six years – I don’t think I could have done this without them.

My passion for beer…

What I love most about real ale is that it is natural and you can get the flavour of the brewer because no two beers are the same. My favourite at the moment is Southbourne
Ales’ Headlander.

My dog Chloe… 

My 12-year-old Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Chloe has been with me through everything. She has made a huge difference to me.

On my pitch… I’m here on Mondays and Tuesdays between 9am and 2.30pm until April 24

Photo: Paul Underhill

Avenue Road Car Park, Avenue Road, Bournemouth, UK