Lewis, St Johns Shopping Centre, Preston

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 32 years old and I’ve been homeless on and off since I was 16. I didn’t get on with my family. They say I’m argumentative and I say: “No, I’m not.”

Why did you start selling the magazine?
I started selling the magazine last year. My friend was selling it and I was struggling and I noticed that he seemed to be doing all right. It’s the best thing I ever did. It’s restored my faith in humanity. I was very depressed, very stressed out. I’ve been looking for nice people to come and help me for the last 15 years and now I have found them.

‘Selling the magazine has restored my faith in humanity.’

Do you claim any benefits?
I don’t claim benefits because I have memory problems and I struggle to maintain the appointments whenever they set up a claim. I used to miss one appointment and then I’d be sanctioned for eight weeks, then it takes four weeks to restart the claim and then the cycle repeats itself. When I have had accommodation, I’d have my benefits sanctioned and then the housing benefit stopped, and then the rent doesn’t get paid so I end up homeless again. I stopped asking them for help about seven years ago and now I might as well stand here and sell the magazine instead of standing in the benefits office begging for money.

Where are you staying now?
I’ve been living in a tent for the last three months but I’ve just been given some temporary accommodation from a very nice family who I’ve known for 20 years. When they found out I was homeless, they said I could stay in one of their houses, which they are putting up for sale. It’s only temporary over the winter period but hopefully I can save up enough from selling the magazine to get myself out of homelessness for good.

You have a dog on your sales pitch with you. Tell us about her.
Georgia is a nine-year-old Rottweiler and she is very well behaved and everybody in Preston knows and likes her. She’s my saleswoman, my hot water bottle and my best friend. I wouldn’t sell her for a million pounds.

When were you happiest?
Now. It’s the first time in 15 years that I’ve been out of depression, anxiety, debt and now homelessness, and it’s from standing here and selling the magazine. I just need 20 nice people to buy a magazine every day and I can support myself and my dog.

What are your plans for the future?
I worked as a rag and bone man for 10 years, so one day I want to own my own scrapyard. Prices are going up for metal and it’s environmentally friendly because it’s about recycling. It’s a long shot but you never know.

What makes you sad?
The poverty and homelessness in Preston. And the people who have slipped through the net with the benefits and who are not getting the help they need because they have not jumped through the hoops they need to jump through.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thanks a lot for your support and continue to buy the magazine.

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