Justin, St Ann’s Square, Manchester

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Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Bury but I moved to London when I was kid and grew up there, hence the southern accent. And this is my dog Bumper, or Mister B. 

How old are you both?
I’m 47 years old and Bumper is nine, 10 in December. He’s been poorly but he’s doing OK. He gets injections every two weeks to keep him going.

‘I was sleeping out of town so that no one could steal Bumper’ 

How long have you sold Big Issue North?
I have been selling the magazine since about February, but I did it before, about five or six years ago. We got a place sorted out then and got back into life, but then everything went tits up again, so we’re back to build ourselves up and try and get things sorted. 

Why do you sell the magazine?
It helped us get a place, get a deposit together. And now it helps us survive. It’s not brilliant, but it’s better than begging. This is the next step up from that. We have got to start somewhere and progress slowly from there.

How did you end up homeless?
The first time was when I had a job that included accommodation in the grounds. The company went bankrupt and closed down and I had nowhere else to go. Then I got a place but I had trouble with the neighbours. They put poison down for Bumper a couple of times and in the end I just moved out. I’m not losing him for anything. 

What was sleeping rough like?
Bloody horrendous. I was sleeping out of town so that no one could steal Bumper. I have had a few teeth knocked out from people, and he’s had a tooth knocked out as well, just from people passing by who didn’t like us. It was virtually impossible to find accommodation with a dog when we were homeless. But in the end we managed to get into a B&B that took pets, which we paid for by selling the magazine. 

What are your hopes for the future?
Now we have this new place, I want to get that sorted out and, once I’ve done that, I’d like to do some training and get back into work. I’d like to try accountancy or something like that. 

What jobs have you done in the past?
I’ve worked for the DVLA, the Passport Office; I’ve run a chemists, a photolab and been a photographer’s assistant. I’ve done all sorts of things all over the place. We’ll get there in the end, but it’s a struggle.  

Tell us a bit about Bumper.
We’ve been together since he was a puppy. He belonged to a friend of mine but that friend had some mental health problems and had to go into hospital, so I ended up looking after Bumper. He’s my life really. My family. I couldn’t imagine being without him. He’s as soft as anything and wouldn’t harm a fly. And he’s got a big fan club on my pitch.

What do you do in your spare time?
Look after Bumper. Mornings, we are in the park playing. Then I’m selling the magazine in the afternoon to get a bit of money together. Then it’s back to the park in the evening. I also like to read, especially fictional history – authors like Ben Kane.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thanks for keeping us going.

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