Phil Corton, Milton Keynes Central railway station

Phil developed PTSD after serving in the army, and he'd like to reach out to all ex-servicemen and women who may be going through the same

Until recently I had been rough sleeping in London for 25 months. I was never far away from a Big Issue vendor and became friends with them, and a regular reader. I never saw my situation as long term and The Big Issue ticked all the boxes for my planned road to recovery. I have very limited capability to work because I have PTSD, so selling the magazine was an ideal opportunity for me, and a challenge. To be able to communicate with people at a personal level on the street is beautiful, it means a lot to me. And I enjoy being outdoors in all weathers.  

My family was temporarily housed in Milton Keynes when I was in London. We had been evicted from a private rental after the landlord decided to sell the property, a ‘no-fault eviction’. I tried to rough sleep in Milton Keynes but I was constantly being harassed and there was no support. The house was extremely small, the cramped living conditions just exacerbated our situation and were unbearable. Because of this and my worsening mental health condition, which was impacting my family, I left home. 

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Previously, I had learned to manage my mental health issues, but the trauma of homelessness made the situation so much worse. I have since reached out for professional help, but it’s extremely slow and often not appropriate. I have been told this is due to lack of resources, which I fully understand.

I served in the British Army from 1983 until 1989 and was involved in a serious terrorist incident while serving in Northern Ireland. This was to be my first introduction to trauma and shortly afterwards I started to develop symptoms of PTSD. Then in 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, I was employed as a private security contractor working on US defence contracts. After five years I moved into the oil and gas sector. I spent 12 years in Iraq. The first five years were absolute hell, it was made very clear that we were not welcome!

In October 2022 the local authority offered my family a lovely two-bedroom flat, and we are so pleased with it. Our two children share the accommodation with us. The initial move was chaotic as we were only given a week’s notice. Somehow, and with a lot of support from the local authority, we met the deadline and moved in. They financed the move, and gave our children beds and a cooker for the kitchen.

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I would like to reach out to any former servicemen and women reading this who find themselves in a difficult situation and encourage them to become part of The Big Issue. It’s certainly made a positive impact on my life, and I hope for a better future.

I have to thank the people who are dearest to me and helped me through the very dark days. I would like to thank all the beautiful people of London and Milton Keynes for their genuine love and support; I have met some truly amazing people. Especially my wife Nong, and two sons Fong Fong and Tin Tin. Gary, the brother I never had, and his wonderful partner Paula. Lee who is a rough sleeper in Central London who became a very good friend. And The Big Issue for allowing me this platform and becoming a stakeholder in my new life.

Milton Keynes Central Station, Elder Gate, Milton Keynes, UK