I’ve had this pitch in the station since September. At my old pitch I’d see the same people five or six times a day but here it’s new people throughout the day. The station staff call me one of the team and I probably give them a good eight or nine hours free work a week helping out. I know pretty much every single train route now.
Before The Big Issue I had a job in a warehouse but I was unlucky enough to be the last one in so I was the first one out. Then my landlord said, “I don’t want anyone on housing benefit to live in my property.” I looked at him and said, “I’ve just lost my job and now you’re throwing me out.” I went off the rails for a couple of weeks. I didn’t know what to do. I ended up just sitting down and begging for about two weeks. I felt so demoralised. It all started turning around when I came to The Big Issue because then I started meeting new people.
I was so nervous at first. People could tell because they were coming up to me and asking why.
They were approaching me with a smile on their face rather than looking down on me. That was nice. The moment I stood up with a magazine I felt that I had ‘me’ back. I was so nervous at first. People could tell because they were coming up to me and asking why. I’d say, “It’s my first day!” Now I have customers who say, “You’re doing a brilliant job. I admire what you’re doing.” It’s really nice to get acknowledgement. And if they’re on a three-hour journey they’re going to need something to read.
I’m sleeping on someone’s sofa at the moment. It’s just temporary but it’s better than being outside. One day when I’ve got somewhere more settled I’d love to get a rescue dog. We had an Akita crossed with a Rottweiler when I was a child and I’ve been in love with Akitas ever since. They’re fighting dogs but only if you teach them to fight. Every dog’s got an animalistic nature just like every human does, but it’s whether you coax it out of them.
I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been homeless, I’ve been in jail, I’ve had addictions and I’ve battled. I was in jail for nearly two years but the moment the judge put the hammer down I decided, I’ve had enough of my bad life. I want a good life now. So I did 19 qualifications in prison. It all worked out in the end because that’s where I got my level two Information Advice and Guidance certificate, because in future I’d like to work with vulnerable people such as myself.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
I’m completely changing everything as I’m going along. I’ve lost seven-and-a-half stone in a year. I just wasn’t happy with me at all and these little adjustments, nothing major, along the way have helped me. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without my brother Ben. I meet up with him once a week to play pool and he’s one of the only ones who’s always stuck by me. It would be good to be able to tell the younger Michael that it’ll be all right in the end. Now that I’m thinking about it I’m getting a bit emotional. I’ve changed so muchTemple Meads Train Station Bristol, Bristol, UK