Tom, Brighouse

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 59 and I’ve been selling Big Issue North on and off for about six or seven years.

Where are you from?
I was born in Batley but I moved to the North East when I was five and lived there for about 15 years. I’ve been all over ever since.

‘There’s new apartments but still there’s people on the streets’

What did you do before selling the magazine?
I was bored. I had nothing to do. I haven’t had a proper job for well over 20 years. I used to work in a textile firm, I worked for a building firm and I used to do driving and car delivery. I’m a good painter and decorator too. I found out about the magazine from a friend. The staff
are good people – they really help you out.

Is there a lot of homelessness in Leeds?
There’s so much homelessness on the streets now I don’t understand why we can’t do something about it. They are building new apartments all over the place but still there’s people sleeping on the streets. A lot of hostels are now shutting down and then the buildings are just stood there empty.

Have you ever slept rough?
I was rough sleeping on and off for 30-odd years. You get streetwise and you see things that nobody else sees. You see people getting beaten up, urinated on, jumped on. One time I was out, there were these two blokes who used to go out after a good drink, and they were all smartly dressed up. I saw them beat this homeless bloke up who was asleep. They jumped on him, pinched his money and his drink. Another time I saw a bloke set fire to someone else in their sleeping bag.

What do you spend the money you make selling the magazine on?
I like looking smart and I spend some of the money I make on new clothes. But sometimes if you look too smart when you’re selling the magazine, people just walk past you because they think you don’t look homeless enough. And my only habit is smoking. I’ve been told I need to give up, but smoking occupies my time. I don’t smoke a lot when I sell the magazine, but afterwards, when I’ve got nothing to do, that’s when I smoke a lot.

Do you have any family?
Not really. My parents have died and I’ve lost contact with the rest of my family. I don’t have any friends. I’m pretty much alone now and I keep myself to myself.

What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know. I just take each day at a time. I want to sort my driving licence out but to do that I need to sort out my birth certificate.

What makes you happy?
I haven’t got a clue what makes me happy. I like to talk to customers and have a good chat with them. I make them laugh and have a joke. Yes, I suppose that makes me happy.

Do you have a message for your customers?
It’s been great meeting people in Brighouse. Lots of people have come up and introduced themselves to me, including the local bobby and a local councillor. It’s been great to meet to everyone.

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