Jack Osborne-Richardson, 40, outside Bird & Blend, Park Street, Bristol

"The healthiest I've ever been is the five years I've been with The Big Issue"

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got married two years ago, and they called it The Big Issue wedding. It was amazing, honestly it was the best day of my life. In fact, the day before yesterday one of my customers handed me a fancy envelope and it was an invite to her wedding! It’s one thing to turn up to my wedding but another to invite me on your special day. It’s the first wedding Toni and I have been invited to as a couple and I’m so excited.

I’ve had mental health problems on and off most of my life. I was in care at the age of 14 after my mum died and I was very lucky when it came to my foster mother, she was absolutely amazing. She wanted to carry on looking after me until I was 18 but of course at that age you know everything so I signed myself out way too early, at 16. I ended up spending years bumming around, up and down the country. I also have Asperger syndrome so if anyone tries to put an imposition or authority on me I can get very antsy. That’s why The Big Issue has been such a godsend. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been able to do long-term that not only have I been good at but my unreliability hasn’t been an issue. It’s that mixture of freedom and responsibility. The person who suffers if I don’t go into work is me, and I can cope with that.

Over the last few years I’ve  literally counted my blessings

The benefits system left me very unbalanced, going in for interview after interview. There’s something very infantalising about the way it’s set up. It makes your welfare other people’s responsibility rather than your own responsibility. In much the same way that begging is toxic, handing over responsibility for managing your own life to someone else can be very damaging. The healthiest I’ve ever been is the last five years while I’ve been involved with The Big Issue.

I recently got a card reader for my pitch and it’s made such a difference, I reckon sales went up by about 15 per cent. Initially it was a  big jump because people were sharing it on their social media and even cash sales went up.

The Big Issue celebrated as Jack wed Toni (his customer) in 2016

It’s a vicious circle when your housing and your employment and your mental health are insecure because they all start to feed off each other. I’ve been up and down all my life but now I have someone who understands me and accepts me for me. Like anyone with depression I have my good days and my bad days but knowing you have someone to support you and that your job’s still going to be there when you come back makes such a difference. Over the last few years I’ve  literally counted my blessings.

My hobbies…

I love Games Workshop. I’ve got a fully painted army and I take it out once a week for games night. Having Asperger’s, I can be a bit insular so a structured, cerebral activity like that helps a lot.

My CV…

Because I always struggled to settle I tended to take seasonal jobs, so I’ve been a daffodil picker in Cornwall, I’ve worked in shops and pubs, I’ve swept out caravans and I’ve picked cockles in Orkney.

Image: Sean Malyon

Bird & Blend Tea Co., Park Street, Bristol, UK