Ellie Jasper, 41, outside M&S, Dumfries

"The attitude of people helps my PTSD"

was doing a degree course in mental health nursing in Carlisle, and I deferred in 2016 as I had suffered some personal and financial problems. I was traumatised, had really bad PTSD and I struggled to even go outside. I also started drinking heavily.

I eventually had to leave my student accommodation. I then started working in a pharmacy, but my income was less than the rent. They were working me into the ground, so I quit. I went back to Cornwall, where I’m from, and I had some very black days. I ended up in a psychiatric ward. I was given no firm diagnosis, and it took months before they wrote the discharge summary. I also had a suspected mini-stroke. I was very depressed and found it hard to control my distress. I was crying in the street. In 2017 I got back to Carlisle, but it was financially impossible for me to return to my course. I ended up on the streets. At the end of April I hit rock bottom, and even attempted suicide.

All I want to do is help people

I don’t know what made me get on the train to Dumfries. I’d never been here before. When I arrived, two police officers convinced me to go to the homeless department. I was a terrified wreck. I was used to them being absolutely horrendous. And they weren’t – they put me in temporary accommodation.

I found out about The Big Issue from the community hub, and thought it might be an opportunity. I also got voluntary work in a shop.

All I want to do is help people. When I started selling the magazine, I just started wishing people a good day, and actually the attitude of people is helping my PTSD. Making people smile, it’s the whole thing about life. It helps me remember who I am again. The little victories are brilliant. People are starting to come and talk to me. I don’t pressure them, push it on them. My customers are great.

I see this as a stepping stone to the total rebuilding of my life. It’s not going to be like it was before, it can be successful. I haven’t got a permanent place here, but I feel at home. I’m not going back into a doorway. Once you sleep rough and you lose the fear of sleeping rough you’re on a very dangerous road.

Selling the magazine gives me structure, it means I’m not sitting on my arse and doing nothing. I can’t believe the difference in me from the frightened person who arrived here a few weeks ago. I can see a future. God has put me here and he looks after me.

My dream…

I’d love to run a shop, selling alternative books about psychology and spirituality. I’d have a healer upstairs. It would be a little space to give guidance to help people help themselves.

I love being outside…

Dumfries is a beautiful town, the community spirit here is amazing. I was part of the ‘Doon Toon’ army cleaning up the main street a couple of weeks ago. I also do voluntary work cleaning up the lovely station gardens.

On my pitch…

Monday-Thursday 9am to 4pm, and Friday-Saturday 12-2pm

Marks & Spencer Dumfries, High Street, Dumfries, UK