Justin, St Ann’s Square, Manchester

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Bury but I was raised down south, and I’m 52 years old.

How long have you sold Big Issue North for?
I have been selling the magazine for about four years or so this time around. But I’ve sold it before in the past. Sales aren’t great at the moment. No one has any money now and the first thing that people do when they are struggling is stop giving to other people, don’t they? I get by. I do what I can. But it’s hard. I am here every day on my pitch, out in all weathers, trying to make enough money. 

Where are you staying at the moment?
I did have a flat until recently but I lost it, so I’m back in B&Bs and staying at friends’ houses. Floating all over the place – it depends on the day really. I was in the flat for a couple of years and I got some support with the rent but I couldn’t afford things like bills and stuff so I had to give it up. It was just too much.

Where are you sleeping tonight?
I haven’t got a clue yet. The weekends are usually sorted, but Mondays are a problem. I haven’t got a regular place to go. If I make enough money, then I will hopefully get a B&B. If not, I know someone who will take Bumper in for the night, but I’ll have to take care of myself.

Tell us about Bumper, your dog.
Bumper is my life. I would do anything for him. He’s 13 years old now but he’s doing okay. He gets support from the charity Street Paws* who provide free vet care and stuff like that. He’s a pit bull, which means he needs to be registered under the Dangerous Dog Act – although he’s soft as anything. It does mean I have problems with his former owner though. If a dog is categorised as “dangerous” then they have to have a legal owner and it’s hard to get that changed. Bumper’s former owner – who gave him up years ago – actually took him off me for about six months and refused to give him back. It was awful – the worst six months of my life. But there was very little I could do about it. Still in the end, I did manage to get him back. 

How did you become homeless?
Mental health problems. It messed my life up. I had a nightmare childhood. I got put in care at the age of six because I was a nightmare, because of my mental health problems. I was sent back home at 12 but then kicked out when I was 16. That’s my experience of family. After I left home, I got a job and things were fine. I only ended up the streets about ten, 12 years ago. 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. 

What’s your plan for the future?
Survive until Bumper dies. After that, I don’t know. As long as he’s alive, I’ll be okay. After that, I don’t care. You’ve only got one life, and you just have to keep going, don’t you? Just have to take every day as it comes and maybe cry afterwards. I keep going for Bumper. He’s my baby. I’d be lost without him.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thanks for buying the magazine and for your support. And also, please start using cash again! I don’t have a card machine because I don’t have a bank account. I rely on people having cash. 

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