Billy Lawrence, 44, outside Tesco Metro, Murraygate, Dundee
“I was so desperate I shoplifted to get into jail and off the streets”
I was homeless for nearly two years; sleeping in doorways, behind shopping centres, in closes. Wherever I felt I was safe. You sleep with one eye open because you don’t know what people could do to you.
I got my flat in 2014 and now I couldn’t cope without it
Eventually I did a shoplift just to get into jail and get off the streets. I was so desperate at that time. I actually got away with the shoplifting so I went back inside and told them what I’d done. They said, “Put it back and don’t come back to the shop” but I told them they had to phone the police. Then there was the relief of being able to explain how I was feeling to the shop assistant. In the end I was inside for six months.
I used to be a heroin user but one day I woke up and thought, “I can’t do this any more.” I’ve got a daughter and I didn’t want her hearing horror stories about me. I always said that I’d never turn 40 and still be chasing drugs so I got on the methadone programme and started selling The Big Issue.
Selling the magazine has given me more confidence and a lot of pride in myself. I don’t have to borrow or claim benefits. It’s real face-to-face work, not behind a counter or on the phone. It gives me a bit of meaning about my life. I’ve gone from a hectic lifestyle to routine and normality.
It’s hard these days though because there’s not a lot of work in Dundee so not everyone is willing to buy a magazine. I share a pitch with Jimmy, the vendor from last week’s My Pitch, and a lot of the stuff for my flat I got from the regulars here. They come up and ask if I’ll be offended and I say, “Never look a gift horse in the mouth!”
Selling the magazine has given me more confidence and a lot of pride in myself
I got my flat in 2014 and now I couldn’t cope without it. It’s hard to explain how good it feels, being able to close the door behind you and shut everything else out. It’s my pride and joy.
I don’t want to set too many goals because I know how volatile my lifestyle used to be. But my focus is getting back to a good relationship with my daughter, the way it used to be. I’m in touch with her through family but she’s turning 16 this year so I’m hoping for more contact. I was mum and dad to her for the first three years and to have that again would be just the ultimate. The icing
on the cake.
My football team
Dundee. I’m blue and proud. Though they’re not doing too good at the moment to be truthful
My favourite author
Martina Cole is brilliant. Some of the books can be quite dark but I can relate to them because they’re about drugs and drug-dealing. It’s like you’re reading about people you know
On my pitch… I’m here from Monday to Friday from 7am to 11am and I also sell at RBS City Square
Photo: Karen Jackson
Tesco Metro, Murraygate, Dundee, UK