Ray Reed, 61, outside WHSmith, Palmerston Road, Portsmouth

“Before The Big Issue I was really down on my luck. It’s helped me get stability into my life”

I like to get out bright and early to sell the magazine. I’ve been doing it for quite a while now and I have a lot of loyal customers. I’m well enough known in town that even if people don’t buy the magazine they know my first name and they’ll stop and have a chat. I’m on crutches at the moment because of a bad leg but the nice people at Costa let me use one of the chairs.

Before The Big Issue I was really down on my luck, begging for money, hanging around the streets with no sense of purpose. Slowly but surely the magazine has given me a purpose. I enjoy it. It’s helped me get stability into my life, which I really needed.

I’m on crutches at the moment because of a bad leg but the nice people at Costa let me use one of the chairs

When it comes to accommodation, I’ve done just about everything – hostels, bedsits, sleeping on the streets. For a while Centrepoint got me into supported accommodation. It allowed me to get back on my feet after sleeping rough. Recently, I got a council flat in the centre of town. It’s nice – not bad at all. It’ll take a bit of getting used to the responsibility but at my age it’s good to have somewhere to call my own.

I grew up in Portsmouth but I moved around a bit for work – labouring, factories, kitchens and other odd jobs. I was in London for a while, relying on an employment agency, but I didn’t really take to the London life. I began to miss Portsmouth so I came back here. I like life on the coast – good walks, nice views, sea air. I like to go to the library after I’m finished work.

Me and a group of my friends like to play Scrabble competitively. We divide up into two or three teams. There’s often about a dozen of us. They’re a good-natured bunch. And as long as you mind your Ps and Qs we’re quite happy to have new people join in.

Scrabble is my favourite thing but I really value the library – for the newspapers, books and somewhere to go. I know they’re closing quite a few down across the country. I don’t know what I’d do without my library. It means more than people realise.

And I don’t know what I’d do without The Big Issue. It’s done me a lot of good and I’m really grateful to it. I’ll keep doing it for as long as I need to.

The city I’d love to see… Vienna. I went to Geneva once but I didn’t get to Vienna – I love to see all the palaces and other grand buildings.

My favourite spot… South Parade Pier in Portsmouth. It’s not quite what it was but it’s still a great spot to take in the views along the beach and out to sea.

On my pitch… I’m outside WHSmith, Palmerston Road, Portsmouth, 9am to 3pm daily

Photo: Scott Ramsey

WHSmith, Palmerston Road, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

The Big Issue

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