Tom Pearce, 33, outside WH Smith, Poole

"I feel safe in my new place. It's the first time in a while I've been able to say that"

Last October I went to Portugal to see a friend for two weeks, and while I was away my flat was squatted and they ransacked it. So the landlord kicked me out and I was on the streets for six months.

It was right over winter and this winter dragged on and on. I slept anywhere that was sheltered, discreet and safe – stairwells and car parks. As well as being outside in the cold weather, not having an address caused me untold pressure. It makes benefits difficult and it’s really hard to get a job.

The Big Issue gives me a bit of motivation

But just last Friday I moved into a hostel. They opened the door and I almost cried. I’ve got an en suite toilet and shower and a brand-new bed. I’ve got it for two years and no one can take it off me. The only way I’ll lose it is if I get kicked out and that won’t happen because I’m a really quiet guy. I feel safe there and it’s the first time in a while I’ve been able to say that.

The Big Issue gives me a bit of motivation. It gets me out and on my feet, and stops me sitting around feeling sorry for myself. My pitch is OK but it tends to be a feast or famine. I’m slowly building it up and starting toget regulars so I’m expecting it to improve.

My father was a publican so before I sold The Big Issue I ran my old man’s pub. But he’s getting on and it’s a young man’s game – 100-hour weeks – so Dad gave it all up and is now a stock-taker.

It’s really difficult for pubs to compete at the minute, the English pub is dying. Maybe one day I’d go back into pub work, but in a management role. I wouldn’t want to be a barman again.

I lived in Bolivia and Peru for three years and I’d love to go back to Latin America and see all the countries I missed. I’d inherited some money – not a huge amount, but enough – so I booked a one-way flight to Brazil. I worked my way round to Bolivia and Peru doing bar work, translation, teaching English. Anything I could to earn a coin.

I’ve also got a master herbalist diploma. One day I’d like to do a Bachelor of Science in it. I could open a shop tomorrow but I’m not allowed to say they’re medicines as I’m not a doctor, although I can call myself a master herbalist. If I could recommend one herb that everyone should take I’d say garlic, without a doubt. It’s like steroids for your immune system. Magic stuff.

What I read and write…

I love the Horus Heresy series of books. It’s by a collection of about half a dozen authors and it’s the best sci-fi I’ve ever read. I also like Tolkien, Orwell and Jean-Paul Sartre. And philosophers like Nietzsche, Kant and Bertrand Russell. I also write poetry.

If I won the lottery…

I’d see to it that all my friends and family had a property that can never be taken off them. Bought outright. Then I’d grab my passport and go travelling. I’d still rough it in 20-dorm hostels.

On my pitch…

I’ve recently moved from Bournemouth to Poole. I sell here daily

Photo: Adrian Suckling

WHSmith, High Street, Poole, UK