Dale Jensen, 39, Marks & Spencer, Plymouth

Big Issue vendor Dale Jensen is selling The Big Issue in Plymouth to save up a flat so his daughter can visit him

I originally started selling the magazine when I found myself homeless. Then I got with my ex-missus and we had a family, but when we split up this time round I came back again.

I’ve been selling The Big Issue for about 10 years now on and off, and I’ve been on my current pitch since May last year. Things are going alright actually. It was good over Christmas, it was very good. Everyone wanted to buy a magazine. It slowed down a bit between Christmas and new year, but what do you expect? Everyone has spent their money over Christmas.

I’ve got at least 10 or 15 regular customers and the rest I just get through the way I sell The Big Issue. I’m like good old Del Boy. I have a ‘roll up, roll up, roll up’ sort of style. I like to try different tactics depending on what is in the issue. If it is an issue with Street Cat Bob in it, I’d say: “It’s another issue with Bob the cat, ladies and gentleman, if you’re a cat lover then come and get it.”

I also like to help people on my pitch. Because I am outside Marks & Spencer and the doors are really heavy anyway, I try to open them for everyone. The staff at M&S are OK about me doing this, it stops my mind from wandering and keeps me out of trouble. It does help me get customers too, but selling the magazine is all about respect and politeness in my eyes. I don’t know how everyone can’t be like that. You get a lot more sales if you’re polite rather than just being in someone’s face.

I used to be a chef and I do enjoy cooking when I can. I’ve got a few specialities. I make a cheese and potato pie, I love doing that. I make a good beef wellington and stuffed mushrooms as well. I like the creativity of cooking. It’s about trial and error. If it looks good it might taste good, if it doesn’t look good it might not be worth it.

I’m also into my football. I’ve supported Sunderland all my life because I’ve got family from there. I’ve supported them through thick and thin, I’ve even got my name on the stadium wall – it was £10 a brick to get your name on there.

Since last May I have been staying in a car park or in doorways or wherever I can bloody get my head down. The plan is to try and save up enough money to attempt to get a flat. You’re talking about the best part of £1,100 just to get a flat. You need the deposit and the month’s rent upfront, and it’s hard for normal people like us. And when you’re homeless you don’t have somewhere to keep your money, and you have to keep dipping into it as you need to survive as well.

I also don’t want to go to hostels for a place to stay because I have been clean for nine-and-a-half years. It was hard getting clean, it was mainly about getting rid of all the people that were a bad influence on me. That was how I got into it in the first place. The last thing I want is stuff in my face, and I’ve even been told it’s not the right place for me. I’ll end up relapsing in like a week.

That’s the last thing I want as I’m struggling as it is to get to see my daughter. I don’t want to go backwards and never see her. She’s 10 and I see her as much as I can.

My big hope for 2022 is that I can eventually get my own place and have my daughter come stay with me.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Marks and Spencer, Cornwall Street, Plymouth, UK

The Big Issue

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