Darren ‘Daz’ Kinsella, 47, outside Santander, Armada Way, Plymouth

"I want to work towards getting a studio or a one-bedroom flat of my own"

come from north London, and it was there that I had a really bad marriage breakdown and as a result hit the drink really badly. I got on a train and ended up in Weymouth. While I was there, I did a six-year stretch in prison for aggravated burglary. When I got out I started selling The Big Issue after I’d done rehab in Bournemouth for my alcohol problem. I saw a couple of vendors in the city centre and asked them what it was about, then got myself badged up in the office there to sell in Weymouth.

I travelled round the south coast for a few years – Devon, Dorset and Cornwall – selling the magazine wherever I went. I ended up in Plymouth, because of all the towns I’ve been to it seems to be the easiest for the homeless, you get a lot of support. I went through one of the homeless hostels, and as a result of selling The Big Issue I managed to save up enough for a deposit. I’m now in a shared house with my own room. It’s not quite my own place yet, but it’s a step up the ladder. I was able to put a little bit by every week, and I was then able to pay the £350 deposit.

If I sit around feeling sorry for myself I’m my own worst enemy – I’ll get into trouble

I want to work towards getting a studio or a one-bedroom flat of my own, and I’d also like to get some other form of full-time job eventually. I can work on building sites, weld, a bit of carpentry, brickwork. I’ve been on and off sites all my life, but because I’ve had such an itinerant lifestyle I haven’t had the opportunity to get my CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card, and nobody will accept you without that now.

If I sit around feeling sorry for myself I’m my own worst enemy – I’ll get into trouble. That’s one of the main reasons I work the hours I do. The job gives me a bit of self-esteem; it makes me feel good about things. Now I’m settled I have quite a lot of regulars. My pitch is on one of the first streets you come to when you come into the city centre, so people see me as soon as they arrive. I have built up quite a good client base.

Obviously Monday is the best day, I can usually sell about 20 to 25 magazines to regulars on the day it comes out. One of them has basically given me all my bedding – duvet, quilt, duvet cover, a couple of carpets as well as a coffee table, as moving presents. I’ve also had a coat and trainers – it’s amazing the stuff you get given really. People seem to appreciate the fact you’re trying to help yourself rather than begging. 

About Me

My passions…

I love reading – I like adventure stories and crime novels. My favourite authors are Wilburn Smith, Chris Ryan, Andy McNab, Clive Cussler and Jack Higgins. It’s really broadened my knowledge and vocabulary. I also love doing crosswords and log puzzles.

I’m very sporty… 

I’m 6ft 3in, and I’m looking around to join a volleyball club. I used to play at county level.

At snooker I used to play semi-professional I got top breaks of 80s and 90s, so I did play to quite a high standard.  But it’s an expensive hobby now.

I’m on my pitch…

Seven days a week, from 9am until 4pm

Photo: Mike Lister

Santander, Armada Way, Plymouth, UK