Italia Uno,

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 36 years old and I became homeless about a year and a half ago because of family problems. It’s the first time I’ve been homeless and it’s been an eye opener.

‘I have a positive mental attitude – PMA. A close friend taught me’

How long have you sold Big Issue North for?
I’ve sold the magazine for about two and a half months. I’m now selling on a new pitch outside an Italian takeaway in Sheffield. I know the people who run it because I used to beg nearby and they run a service where they give out pizzas to homeless people. It’s a brilliant service. They ask customers to make a donation when they buy a pizza, then they give out pizzas to people who are on the streets.

Where are you living now?
I am living in a one bedroomed house, which is brilliant. It’s a private rented house. I’ve been there since early December, but it wasn’t a very nice Christmas because I had nothing there. Italia Uno started asking its customers to bring things in for me though. They got me a rug, bedding, kitchen utensils, plates, all sorts of things. In two months I went from having nothing to having almost everything I need.

Where were you living before?
I was in a tent for five months and I was in a hostel for seven. Hostels are not very nice places. I learnt why they call them hostels – sounds like hostile. Things were more peaceful being in the tent. I could have a fire. I was in a farmer’s field and the famer used to bring me cups of coffee and stuff like that. He was a good man.

Do you like selling the magazine?
Yes. Kim and everybody at Italia Uno have been lovely and the pitch is going well. If I got a job tomorrow and I became rich I would still sell Big Issue North free of charge because I want to support it and teach people about it. I’d sell it for the stories. I read them myself. And people like to see others trying to make their way in life instead of just begging and saying: “Please, sir.” Everybody has life problems but there’s nothing better than someone trying to work for their money. I know you can earn a lot more money begging. I’ve seen the difference. What the Big Issue North guys get compared to what I had when I begged – it’s like pennies versus pounds. But I don’t want to beg anymore.

What do you hope for in the future?
I want to run my own dog walking business one day. I have two Staffordshire bull terriers, 14 and 12. They are getting a bit old so I don’t bring them out in winter because it wouldn’t be fair on them. I don’t have a choice to come out in the cold, but they can stay warm. They will be out in the summer with me.

What keeps you going?
I have a positive mental attitude – PMA. A close friend who was a big help when I was homeless taught me that and he’ll know who he is when he reads this. I keep that attitude now.

What makes you happy?
Just life – it doesn’t matter how hard life gets, as long as you are still kicking, still doing something.

Do you have a message for all the people who have helped you?
Just thank you. I thought the world was full of nasty people but when I became homeless I realised just how many nice people there are.

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