Mick, Marks and Spencer, Preston

‘I have the best customers. I’ve made some great friends’

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 40 years old and originally from Liverpool. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for about 18 months now.

How did you become homeless?
I was in the pub trade. I used to run two pubs, but it didn’t work and I got myself into a lot of debt and stuff. I hit rock bottom about eight years ago and ended up with a problem on the drink and that led me to being homeless and then ending up in prison.

‘I have the best customers. I’ve made some great friends’

What happened then?
There was a moment of clarity for me. Lying in a prison cell with nowhere to turn I thought: ‘I’ve got to do something here, because if I don’t, this is going to be forever.’ And that’s when I learnt to ask for help. When I was released, after five years, I was homeless again but I wasn’t ready for the rehabilitation work I had done to go by the wayside. So I went to the Foxton Centre and asked for help, and if it wasn’t for them, and for Big Issue North, I would be back to square one.

Why did you decide to sell the magazine?
I knew about the Big Issue North because I had had a short stint of it in Liverpool before I went inside. So I knew there was an avenue there where I could get myself back in to some employment, earning a bit of money, get my self-confidence back, meet new, interesting people from all walks of life.

How is life now?
I’m housed now in my own flat here in Preston, which was organised through the Foxton Centre. And it wasn’t just a case of ‘here’s your flat’ – it came with selling Big Issue North, and support getting furniture and stuff like that. I’ve been off drink for the last two years. And I’ve got a girlfriend now. She’s the best thing that’s happened to me.

Have you noticed a rise in homelessness locally?
There is a lot of homelessness here. The lads now are sleeping out in the street, in full view of people, which I think is good, because now it’s in people’s faces they can’t ignore it. When I was rough sleeping I slept out of the way, at the back of the train station. But now this is showing people what’s really going on.

What are your hopes for the future?
Permanent employment one day, away from selling the magazine. For me, it’s not a job for life – it’s a stepping stone. I want to work with people who are from similar backgrounds. I’m looking at some ways to do that.

Do you have a message for your customers?
I have the best customers in the world. I’ve made some great friends. I particularly want to thank Marks and Spencer. The people there are absolutely fantastic. Some of the staff buy the magazine from me and they have all made me feel very welcome and have been non-judgmental towards me. I love them to bits.

What have you learnt in life?
Ask for help. If you have stuff going on, try and talk about it with someone. I believe I’m living proof that if you don’t give up, and you keep trying, things will work out in the end. Don’t be on your own. If you’re on your own in this world, you’re fucked.

Interview: Christian Lisseman

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