Martin Wheeler, Westbourne Arcade, Bournemouth

Martin was nervous to sell the magazine at first, but now enjoys it and finds that the social aspect helps with his mental health

Things are pretty good. I usually take in about five magazines and do about two to three hours and I sell them most days really. I love selling The Big Issue. It’s nice to be able to be out in the public, mixing and so­cial­ising. Because normally, if I don’t have any work, I stay at home and don’t do a great deal, and that doesn’t work for me really. 

There are a few people who buy the magazine from me every week. There are quite a few tourists and people visiting and we normally have a chat as well, which is quite nice. It’s good to have that social interaction. It makes me feel energised and like I’m doing something worthwhile, rather than shutting myself off. 

I’ve only been selling for three months; I started on 1 March. At first I felt a bit nervous and anxious, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but over time I’ve become a lot more settled down with it. I know what to expect and I know what I’m doing much more than I did. The team at The Big Issue has been brilliant as well, they’ve been really positive and understanding. 

I went through a while where life was quite hard. I was living in Guildford with my family and then moved down to Bournemouth to try and get things going a bit. The only place I had to stay was sheltered housing for homeless people in Bournemouth. I lived there for a while, and I worked there for a year as well. They ran a scheme where they funded a month’s rent and a deposit for me to have my own one-bedroom flat. I’ve lived here for about three-and-a-half years. It was pretty lively in the sheltered accommodation, so I was quite pleased to get out really, even though they helped me to be able to move on. 

My pitch is in quite a well-off area. It’s about 15 minutes by bus from where I live in Boscombe. Boscombe has got a bit of a bad reputation – it’s renowned for people street drinking and taking drugs but I live just off the main road so it’s quite quiet and doesn’t cause me a problem.  

I’m on ESA and PIP. I’ve not had to appeal my PIP, but I’ve come across so many people who have had to do that. When I worked at the sheltered house quite a few people in there had been rejected. And then once they’ve had an appeal a small amount of them have been given a massive backlog of money. 

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The reason I do The Big Issue is because I want to be able to afford to run my life normally, otherwise after bills and stuff I wouldn’t have anything left. So the money from The Big Issue helps. I get PIP because I was diagnosed with a mental health problem about 25 years ago. Depression, anxiety and stuff like that. It’s not just the money really, it’s like a self-employed thing. I’ve kept my focus in the last few months in terms of getting off my back and doing something positive with the week. 

I like my music – I like bands like Oasis, U2, Coldplay, that sort of thing. I like going for walks and I like my football. I’m a Liverpool fan after my family came over from Ireland and they were supporting them so I started as well. It’s not been the best season. There was a turnaround at the end where they won nine in a row but it was horrific for a while. But they beat Manchester United 7-0, and you can get away with those sorts of seasons if that happens. 

I’d like to say thank you to the people who buy the magazine and thank you for people’s good nature when they stop to chat to me. It makes my day worthwhile. 

Words: Liam Geraghty

Westbourne Arcade, Westbourne, Bournemouth, UK