Phil, B&M Bargains,
Rotherham

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 35 and I’ve just been selling Big Issue North for a couple of weeks now, but I used to sell The Big Issue years ago in South Wales.

‘Before anything happens to my mum I want her to be proud of me’

Where are you from?
I was born in Cheltenham, but I had issues as a child and moved over to South Wales when I was young. I had a really difficult start as a child because of family stuff – really bad. I was on the streets at a young age and started selling The Big Issue when I was about 21. I stopped selling it when I was about 26 and for a good few years I was on the straight and narrow, but then I went back downhill. I’ve been on and off drugs from a young age just to help me cope, help me get by. But it doesn’t help in the long run. The problem is always there when you come around, when you come down off that high. It’s about learning different ways to deal with those issues.

Have you had much support to help you?
I’ve tried to get support in the past. It’s not always easy. People don’t always understand. Sometimes you get workers who have only read stuff from books but, to me, you need people who have been there, done it and got the T-shirt. Someone that reads it all from a book, they don’t know how it feels to be on the streets or how it feels to take drugs to try and block out your past. There’s not enough out there in the profession who have been through it.

How have you kept going?
The support of friends and love of my animals. I’ve got people I can confide in and who don’t turn their back on me for having a mishap or when I slip back. I’m back on a methadone prescription now because I’m sick of taking drugs already. I’ve done it off my own back and, although it’s early days, I’m feeling a lot better for it. It’s me moving those chess pieces this time and not someone else moving them.

Tell us about your dog.
This is Jess. I’ve had her just over a year. When she came to me she was skin and bone. She was used as a hunting dog and the owner reckoned that she had an eating disorder and she couldn’t put on weight. I had her for a few weeks and started giving her small meals, little and often and within a month you could see that she was putting weight on. I’ve had her ever since and she’s my world. She helps me stay sorted and she gives me the incentive to carry on. I took her in at a bad time of her life and I can’t turn my back her.

What do you hope for in the future?
I’d like to get myself sorted and clean and do well. I’m slowly getting there. It takes time. My real mum is not very well and before anything happens to her I want her to be proud of me. I want her to look at me and know that I’m doing well this time.

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