Stephen, Leeds train station

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well my name is actually Paul, but I’m known as Stephen. I’m 33 years old and I was born in Leeds. I’m now on this new pitch at the main entrance to Leeds train station. 

How is the new pitch going?
It’s not doing too bad. And I’m under some shelter, which is good. The staff in the station have been really nice, really supportive. 

‘They took me off the life support machine and thought I was dead’

You’ve got cerebral palsy. Tell us about that.
I fell out of an upstairs bedroom window when I was two years old. That’s what caused this disability.  I was on a life support machine for two months and in a coma for six months. I died three times in hospital. They took me off the life support and they thought I was dead but there was still a bit of life left in me. 

How does your disability affect you?
I just deal with it now. I just love life. No offence or owt, but I think life is funny. When I was a kid I got bullied every day at school. They called me spastic and stuff like that, but it doesn’t matter because I’m still here.

What’s your typical day like?
I just wake up, come to town, do Big Issue North and then go back to my flat, clean up
and watch TV. I like comedies, especially things like Only Fools And Horses. 

How did you end up selling the magazine?
I walked out of home when I was 16 after an argument with my mum. I came into town and started chatting to this bloke who was homeless and I ended sleeping rough that night in a doorway. It was easier sleeping out than going home to face my mum. She’s a lovely woman, but it wasn’t ever going to work between us. That’s when I started selling the magazine.
I just left home and never went back. 

Wasn’t it frightening, sleeping rough?
No. You just find a doorway and go to sleep. I’ve slept rough in lots of places. What’s to be scared of? I’ve been down to London and up to Glasgow and Edinburgh. I get a free bus pass because I’ve got a disability and I use it to travel about all over. I was homeless until about four years ago. 

Where are you living now?
I’m in my own flat now and I wouldn’t give it up for anybody.

Will you ever stop selling the magazine?
I have stopped in the past, but I’ve always gone back to it. It gets me out of my flat. I’m not committing any crimes or anything. I’m selling the magazine. I’m working. That’s got to be better than begging. It’s the most fun job to do. I love watching the different kinds of people. 

How are you coping with the summer heat?
It’s not too bad. I mean I’m sick to death of seeing the sun now, but, you know, in a few weeks it’ll be winter again.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you ever so much for buying the Big Issue North off me for all these years. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the summer.

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