Sarah Pearce, 34, outside Specsavers, Plymouth

"Selling the magazine changed my life. I'm one of the best sellers in Plymouth now "

started selling The Big Issue at the start of 2017 after a year of sleeping rough. I had a short spell in prison for shoplifting, going in in April and coming out in August, and I immediately started selling the magazine again. It’s been going alright since then and I’ve built up a good group of regulars – they tell me I’m really polite when I’m on pitch and I always use my Ps and Qs. I get a lot of help from people with food and drinks and the man across the road is happy to help me change money – it’s really nice.

Before I was working with The Big Issue, I had been sleeping rough on a park bench and I had a real problem with shoplifting. It got so bad that I was actually banned from every shop in Plymouth, which was really difficult. I had a lot of temptation to steal, particularly posh candles because they were expensive and I knew I could sell them. Selling The Big Issue has helped me to focus on something and not to feel tempted to shoplift. I’m now allowed back in the shops, which has been great for me and made me feel more part of the community.

Selling The Big Issue has helped me to focus on something

It has also allowed me to get some temporary accommodation since I came out of prison. It’s nice to have my own room, even though I don’t really like where I’m staying at the moment. I’m hoping to find a new place soon.

My pet Staffy Medusa also can’t stay with me at the moment so I’m hoping to get her back soon. I know that’s the name of a Gorgon but I decided to call her that because I liked the name. I’ve had plenty of dogs before growing up but she is beautiful. I also spend a lot of time writing to my kids – I have two boys aged two and four – and I would love to get back in touch with them.

I’m so grateful to The Big Issue – selling the magazine really has changed my life. I’m one of the best sellers in Plymouth now and I urge more people to come and buy the magazine and get involved. I think it is important to stop people begging because that is a really bad thing, I think it’s wrong.

I tell people I see out and about who are homeless or begging that they should sell the magazine – sometimes I get a good reaction and sometimes I get a not-so-good reaction. But that won’t stop me telling people how great The Big Issue can be.

My dog…

My pet Staffy Medusa can’t live with me at the moment but I’m hoping to get her on my pitch soon. I’ve had her since she was a puppy and she’s beautiful, I think she’ll be dead popular with my regulars.

My favourite shop…

I like watching television and my favourite show is Emmerdale. I don’t really have a favourite character but I like to watch the programme as much as I can.

On my pitch… 

I’m here every day from 9am until 5pm, sometimes 6pm

Photo: Mike Berry

Specsavers Opticians Plymouth - Marsh Mills, Plymouth, UK