Alan (and Eli), Bolton town centre

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Bolton and I’m 43. I’m tired today because I’ve been decorating all weekend.

How long have you sold the magazine for?
I have only just started selling again, but I used to sell it years ago, also in Bolton.

‘My regulars who remember when I was begging are proud of me’

Why did you come back?
I’ve been on and off the streets since I was 13. I had trouble at home – my father was abusive. I’d stopped selling the magazine the first time because I got a job. I had a wife and kids, and a place to live. But things fell apart again because my wife had an affair. It really screwed me up. So I ended up back on the streets for two years, begging and busking to get by. Now I have just moved into a new flat, and I am selling the magazine again so I can buy some furniture and get my life back together.

How did you get into your new flat?
Through Bolton Council. It’s supported housing. It feels good to be there. Another reason I came back to sell the magazine is because I was arrested for begging. Bolton town security, enforcement officers, told me I needed to come and sell the magazine instead.

Would you rather beg or sell the magazine?
I’d much rather be selling Big Issue North. I like selling it. It’s good. I like being around people. All my regulars, they are people who remember me when I was begging, and they all say they are proud of me because I’m doing this, because I used to be sat there on the pavement asking for money. Selling the magazine builds your confidence.

What work have you done in the past?
I have had a few different jobs – security, internet cabling, landscape gardening. I’d like to work for a homeless charity one day. I’m sorting my life out again now and I’d like to give something back.

What do you do in your spare time?
Take my dog out. See my mates.

Tell us about your dog Eli.
Eli is a six-year-old staffie-collie cross. I have had him for two years now. I got him off a friend who was looking after his mum. He asked me to look after his flat and his dog, and when I got my own place he said I might as well take Eli with me because he was used to me. He keeps me going really. Without him I’d just sit there and get depressed. He gets me out the house. It’s like selling Big Issue North – that also gets me out, gives me something to do.

What are your plans for the future?
Look for my four kids. I don’t know where to start looking for them though. They will be in their twenties now. I do feel hopeful about the future, but I didn’t always.

What makes you happy?
Eli, selling the mag and sorting out my flat.

What makes you unhappy?
Not being with my kids.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Please keep supporting homeless people.

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