Debra, Sheffield city centre

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 43 and from Sheffield. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for about two weeks now.

‘I’ve been homeless on and off since I was 16’

How’s it going?
I am on a floating badge at the moment, which means that I don’t have a regular pitch, so it’s about finding the right pitch at the right time of day to do well. Selling the magazine is completely different to begging. When you beg people just ignore you. At least when you sell the magazine, people turn around and say: “No, thank you.” At least they talk to you. And at least know I’m doing something.

Why did you start selling the magazine?
I’d seen quite a few people selling it and to be honest I’m not a very good beggar! I’m useless at it. Some people make loads of money begging, but I just didn’t.

How did you end up homeless?
Up until a year ago I had everything. I was renting a private house, which I’d had for seven years. I had a TV, PlayStation, everything. And then the landlord said he had to sell the property. He gave us three months notice and our bond back, and we thought: “Well, we’ve got time.” And then the money and time just dwindled away. It got to the day of moving and my partner was in prison at the time. I moved to my son’s for a while, but that didn’t work out, and when my partner came out, I wanted to be with him, so the two of us slept in a doorway. We then slept in a tent for about three months until the council did something.

Where did you pitch the tent?
We pitched it in the middle of one of the largest roundabouts in Sheffield. It was hard to miss us. Local people were good though. They brought us food, bedding and things and they were actually sad to see us leave.

Is this the first time you’ve been homeless?
I’ve been homeless on and off since I was 16. I left home because of family problems. I was a bit of a rebel. I still am. Sleeping out didn’t seem to bother me when I was younger, and for the first month or so in the tent it was just like an adventure – it was fun. But then the heavy rain started and it wasn’t fun anymore. I was getting desperate by the end of it.

Where are you staying at the moment?
I’m now staying with my partner in what’s called interim flats. Most of the staff there are a lot younger than me and they tell me what I can and can’t do, and I don’t like that. I have to hand my keys in before I go out and I have to be let into the building. There’s cameras everywhere and they tell you if you can and can’t have visitors.

And you are a big rock music fan, aren’t you?
Growing up my mum and dad always listened to rock music. Some of my favourite bands are Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Def Leppard. At the moment I’ve got no way of listening to music except through my old phone, so I’d like to get a radio. Someone actually gave me some CDs the other day but I don’t have anything to play them on.

What do you hope for in the future?
For things to get back to how they how they used to be. It’s the smaller things, like having a radio, that I miss.

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