Joe, Iceland, Liverpool

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 56 and I was born in Walton, Liverpool. I have been around Big Issue North for about five years. I’ve sold the magazine and I’ve volunteered in the Liverpool office, doing the breakfast club in the morning. It’s a great place and I love the staff here. If you are depressed, you come in and they have a chat to you, offer you a cup of coffee and you think: “It’s OK, I’m here.”

‘Elvis. I’ve laughed with him, cried with him. His music helps me.’

You have just started selling the magazine again after some time. How are you finding it?
I’m loving it. It’s a lot better than it was the last time I tried. Last time I just stood there, not talking to anyone, but then I spoke to another vendor, Les, and he put me wise. He said: “Don’t stand on your pitch like an idiot. You’ve got to ask, politely.” And I’m getting into it. It is still hard work though.

Why are you back selling the magazine?
I lost my flat. I went for sheltered accommodation and I thought I’d got it, but then my current landlord gave me a bad reference. We had an argument about it and
I ended up losing the place I was in. I’m living with two friends at the moment.

What was your childhood like?
I had a good childhood. But I was an only child, which isn’t the greatest thing to be. It’s lonely. It’s OK when you are out with your mates, playing footie and things, but it’s hard when you go home and you’re sat there and there’s your father who is not interested in you in the least and all he wants to do is sleep and watch the telly. But I was lucky in the fact that I had a fantastic mother. And I didn’t realise, until he died when I was 24, how much my dad meant to me as well.

How did you first become homeless?
My marriage broke down. I was drinking and gambling and I wasn’t there for my wife and daughter. I drank since the age of about 12 and by the time I got married, I was an alcoholic. I used to drink two bottles of whisky a day. I’d keep them under the sink. I’d get up at half past six and that’s what I had for breakfast.

Why did you stop drinking?
My best mate Tommy, his father worked in a brewery. Me and Tommy did everything together. He was like the brother I never had. It was his death that stopped me drinking. I’ve had a couple slips since then, but now I’m off it altogether. My doctor told me that if I have another drink, just one drink, I could be dead.

What do you hope for in the future?
I’d love to work for Big Issue North in the office and help support other vendors. I’ve just started with Waves of Hope, a community support group. They do all sorts. As part of that, I’ve started creative writing again, doing poetry and stories.

Makes you happy?
Elvis. He’s all I live for. I’ve laughed with him, cried with him. Without him, when my mum died, I don’t think I would have survived. His music helps me. It lifts my depression more than any tablets could ever do. I count him as family. It’s the fortieth anniversary of his death in August, but his music will never die.

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