Sandy, Barclays Bank, Skipton

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Tell us about yourself.
I’m 47 and I’m from Fife originally. I’ve sold Big Issue North for around eight years, in different places. Oh, and I hate having my photo taken, so that’s why I’m not looking at the camera.

“The coldest part is between four and six in the morning.”

Where do you live?
I’ve lived in a bedsit in Armley for 18 months now but before that I was on the street for around 11 years.

How did you end up on the streets?
I had a drug problem. It started when I was a kid. If I got told don’t do something I just went and did it. I started sniffing solvents in school because people had been telling us about glue sniffing and saying we shouldn’t do it, so I wanted to give it a try. I was taking Valium when I was 13. I was 16 when I first used heroin. I wouldn’t say that the area I grew up in was a bad area, but there were drugs around. And for most of my life I’ve worked, even when I’ve been using drugs.

What work did you do?
I did farm work, seasonal work, picking fruit and veg. I also was a painter and decorator. I had a job in a warehouse when I first came to Leeds, 22 years ago. I was still using then.

So what happened?
I got myself in a bit of trouble because of the heroin and ended up in prison for six years. So I lost my job, my house and ended up on the streets when I came out. I went to live with my mum at first but then I started back on the heroin and she’d had enough and kicked me out on Christmas Day. I woke up the next day and I was covered in snow.

What was it like being on the street?
I kept myself to myself, away from other people. I was sleeping on cardboard boxes with a blanket over me. You just have to get on with it. The coldest part is between four and six in the morning. That’s what gets you up.

What was the first night in your own place like?
I slept the whole weekend from the Friday until the Monday morning. I had no bedding, so I slept in my sleeping bag. I’m sort of settled in now. It’s quiet. Really quiet.

What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got arthritis now and some problems with my hip and leg. Now I have to use a stick to get about. So the most important thing for the future is getting this leg fixed. I try to keep myself busy by selling the magazine. That takes my mind off the pain and it helps because I don’t like staying in.

What do you do in your spare time?
Read books. I’m reading The Hobbit right now for the second time. I’ll try reading anything.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Just keep buying the magazine.

Interview: Christian Lisseman

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