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Josh Clarke, 29, Co-op, Henleaze Road, Bristol

Bristol Big Issue vendor is happy to be back chatting to his regulars, as he reflects on how much his community has done for him.

I struggled a bit with lockdown but I hit my sales target quite a lot when I was out in summer, which helped. When I came back out on my pitch it was slow to begin with and it’s only started picking up a few weeks later. I think it’s mainly because there are a lot of older ones in this community and if they’ve been inside for a long time it takes them a while to get used to going out again. I understand it, because of what we’ve all been through it’s got to everyone.

Everyone knows me here, they’ll tell you I’m very friendly. I keep an eye on the older ones, and if I see something that doesn’t look right I’ll help them along. I’d been worried about them but I’ve started seeing them again now. Today was my busiest day, I’ve sold 25 magazines in just the morning – which is more than I’d sold in all the time I’d been back since April 12. I think that’s because I’ve been putting in the hours and so people are starting to realise that I’m back.

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For me, selling The Big Issue goes back a couple of years to when I had nothing and was sleeping outside. Before that I was just sitting on the pavement to make my money, until the people round here told me to get on to The Big Issue. I tried out this pitch and I’ve been on it ever since. It’s nice for everyone to see that I’m on my feet now and that I’ve got the skills to deal with customers.

I’m living in the community and I’ve got a roof over my head. I was on the streets for five-and-a-half years until a lady did a crowdfunding thing for me in 2019. Everyone chipped in around the area and that’s how they got me a room in a shared house. I haven’t been back on the streets since. I feel safer, more secure, and I know I’ve got somewhere to go at night rather than worrying about where I’m going to sleep.

I’ve got a tremendous community around me. The customers like me because of who I am and because I’ve got a passion about me. I suppose they just like having me around, and they know I never cause any problems or put people under pressure to buy a magazine. When I’m on my pitch, I just smile and chat. That’s how I get people to buy from me, it’s what the people like. I just stand there with a cheerful face, always happy, and I cheer all the children up. I suppose that’s how a customer becomes a regular.

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I don’t like being on my own, I like being around people. I go to various churches around Bristol for the soup runs and then I get to have a chat with the volunteers. It saves me being alone once I’ve finished on my pitch for the day. Maybe in the future I’d like to have a job in retail, but I’m not going to rush into it because it’s hard to get work nowadays. I really just want to keep selling The Big Issue, because I do enjoy it.

I’ve got a community here that likes having me around so I’d rather stick with them a bit longer. I hope that I get to achieve my sales target for my magazines and that sales keep going up every week. I’m not saving for anything in particular, but I do have to pay for my room. It’s not that cheap, but I don’t mind. Everyone’s got to pay in life, and I’m earning my money these days.

Josh Clarke was speaking to Sarah Reid

Co-op Food - Henleaze, Henleaze Road, Henleaze, Bristol, UK