Carl Fellows, 52, outside M&S, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough

"I've got back in touch with my family, I've got a flat now so they come to visit"

Before I started selling The Big Issue I was homeless and travelling from place to place, sleeping wherever I could. I was down south in Andover, Winchester… a couple of weeks in one place and then I’d move on.

Before I was homeless I’d been in demolition and worked on a fair for a few years so I was used to the travelling lifestyle. But then I had a mental breakdown while I was living on the streets. I knew my health was deteriorating. I told my mum and she asked me to come back home, so I did.

My customers are great, they look out for me

I wasn’t getting benefits and I knew the person who sold The Big Issue here before me so I thought, why don’t I give that a try? It’s a bit of extra money and it feels like I’m giving something back to society now. I didn’t have any experience of selling but I learned it on the job. I’ve been selling the magazine for five-and-a-half years now. My customers are great, they look out for me – and so do the shop workers around here. They buy me teas and coffees, maybe a bit of lunch. One of the reasons I do this job is for my regulars.

Since I came home I’ve got back in touch with my family. And I’m also seeing my two daughters again. They’re 22 and 32 and live in Stockton and Sunderland. I’ve got a flat now so they come around to visit every couple of weeks. I’ve also got six grandchildren – four girls and two boys. It’s good being a granddad. The Big Issue gives me the money to help with my kids and my grandchildren. I help out every now and then, and I also like to put some extra away for Christmas.

I fish for trout in Sunderland and Redcar and I also go sea fishing. Every now and then I come home with something for tea, but I wouldn’t say I’m the greatest fisherman. It’s therapeutic with the sea breeze though, and by the time I’ve spent a few hours there I can get a good night’s sleep.

After I had my breakdown I was in a halfway house and I got some support with my mental health there. I still visit the centres if I’m having a bad time. But I’ve been back home for six years now and it’s the longest I’ve ever been settled. I couldn’t go back to that nomadic lifestyle. If I came into money, I’d travel a bit but I’d always come home. I can’t be running away from myself no more. 

I love animals… I have a couple of goldfish but no other pets as I’m not allowed to keep them where I’m living. I used to have dogs and I’d like to have some again one day.

My team… I support Middlesbrough FC and they’re doing quite well at the moment. I don’t have a favourite player, I just like to see them win!

On my pitch… I’m here Monday to Wednesday from 10am-2pm and Thursday to Saturday from 7.30am

Photo: Konrad S Leader

Marks & Spencer Middlesbrough, Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, UK