Bradley Counsell, Better Food, Whiteladies Rd, Bristol

Bradley worked as a chef until the pandemic. Now he's back on his feet with a place of his own and job prospects on the horizon

I’ve been selling The Big Issue outside Better Food since Christmas. I’ve been on and off with The Big Issue in the past but the last couple of months I’ve been there and I’ve been hitting it hard. Things are pretty good on my pitch. I’ve got some regular customers and a few people have given me their number if I ever need a chat, which is always nice. I’ve made a couple of friends and a couple of people are always willing to buy me a coffee or have a chat. That’s a positive thing. 

I’ve just been given a new card reader by The Big Issue. That helps because everyone doesn’t bring cash with them any more. They’ll say I’ve only got card and now I’ve got a card reader and it’s made things five times quicker. I stick my card reader on view next to my magazines so people can swipe it and off they go. 

Away from selling the magazine I like my football. I’m a Liverpool fan and I used to have a season ticket at Anfield – I was born in Bristol and raised in Liverpool, then when I was 16 I moved back. It’s not been the best season but I still try and watch the matches where I can on the internet or on my phone. 

I was homeless when I started selling The Big Issue about two years ago during Covid. I went to a soup run and a lady came in who worked for The Big Issue and said, “why don’t you try selling the magazine?” I was a bit anxious, but I said yeah I’ll give it a go. I lost my home because I lost my job working as a chef. I worked in a Spanish restaurant in Portishead for five years before the pandemic. When Covid kicked off they stopped doing walk-ins at the restaurant and I was bottom of the line at that point, and when they went to deliveries they had to let a couple of people go and basically I was expendable. I was making a decent wage and then the next week I’d got nothing. It all just stopped. I couldn’t pay my rent which meant I lost my house. I was sofa surfing for about three weeks and then I got into a hostel thanks to a guy at St Mungo’s in Bristol.  

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After 18 months in the hostel I’ve got my own place. My support worker helped me sort it through the council and it’s nice. It’s one big room with a bathroom and a kitchen so it’s a maisonette or a studio flat, whatever you want to call it. It’s worked out alright, it took me a while to get it but finally I’ve got my nice little gaff. It gives me independence and makes me want to do something more. Now I’m in my own place I’ve got my own responsibilities. 

I’ve got a job coming up in Bath and I’ve pretty much landed on my feet with it. It’s digging up an old field and making it into allotments, separate beds, placing flowers and growing fruit and veg. I’ve done a bit of landscape gardening before, plus I’ve been a chef, so I know about the old vegetables. I’m well up for it. I’ve got a week to do and then the boss has got a couple of weeks work coming up as long as I don’t mess up this week. It’s a decent wage and that came through Sue at The Big Issue. It’s a real bonus. I’m always optimistic. 

People should go to The Big Issue if they are homeless or struggling, they definitely help you a lot. They’ve given me vouchers for my electric and my gas since I’ve moved into my new flat, and I don’t think I would be living here without them because they’ve helped me along the way. So get involved.  

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Better Food, Whiteladies Road, Redland, Bristol, UK

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