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Dave Campion, 41, The Strand Community Centre, Dawlish

Dave’s ambition is to one day run a homeless charity, and he’s got a few ideas about how to fund it

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I’ve been in Dawlish since about three months before the pandemic. It’s a bit quiet but it’s a nice place. I grew up in Derby and first became homeless when I was 15 or 16 and then again from when I was about 25. So I’ve moved from place to place over the years. I do have a few regular customers – I would like to have more – but Dawlish does look after me. The Thai place across the road is always bringing meals out, the taxi company gives me a discount and things like that.

Things haven’t really got back to normal in terms of selling the magazine since the first lockdown. Even at the height of last summer when people were allowed out again I was only selling 30 or 40 a week. Who knows if it will ever get back to normal? That’s why I’m looking at other things because I can’t really rely upon it. I’m waiting for the cost of living payment to come through at the moment to help me. 

The pandemic did change where I live though. I am still in the flat I got through the Everyone In scheme [rough sleepers were brought indoors during the first Covid lockdown]. To be honest, I felt like it took away my freedom. When I was homeless I was able to just go gallivanting, but now I’ve got responsibilities to this place and bills to pay. I was quite happy having barely anything but being able to spend all of what I had how I wanted. That was why I was homeless in the first place.

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I’m having a difficult time with my mental health. The whole being caged indoors I don’t like. I have to be on benefits too, and I don’t really want to be. I don’t want to take anything from a society that doesn’t give a fuck about me. That’s one of the reasons why I was on the streets for around 15 years.

It’s only because of my love of gaming that I’m still in my flat really. If it wasn’t for my PlayStation 4 I’d be long gone. I’ve thought about going on the road a couple of times but then I’m like, “Yeah but I couldn’t play Ark. How am I going to live in a world without that?” 

I’d like to run a homeless charity one day. That’s my aim in the end because I feel like there’s many out there that don’t offer the help that’s wanted. I feel like the aim is: get a job, get a building to live in and do that for the rest of your life. I’d like to offer alternatives. One of the ideas I had for the charity was to offer a project boat. You could get a boat on the cheap, then you could put people on a course and they can learn how to make that boat into an actual houseboat they could live in and go around wherever they wanted.

I’ve got a few ideas that are stepping stones to getting my homeless charity going. I want to explore running my own servers in Ark to see if they can raise money. I’m also looking at a T-shirt business, selling them on the high street or on a stall. We like our black swans in Dawlish, they are unique to us and we take them very seriously so I want to design T-shirts around them. Maybe saying ‘Black Swans Matter’. I’m interested in the ethical side of it too, with upcycled shirts that keep costs down and bins empty. I’m looking for funding now as well as business support, advice and mentoring from the Job Centre.

I’m quite an ideas man. I often wish that I had a rich man following me around. Just to be like: “That’s another gold idea, Dave, I’m going to run with this.” Just so I could see my ideas going into the world.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Slimming world at the Strand Centre, The Strand, Centre, Dawlish, UK

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