Josh Clarke, Co-op, Henleaze Road, Bristol
Big Issue vendor Josh Clarke says selling the magazine helps him to deal with negativity. Now he is “smiling pretty much all the time”.
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I’m a positive guy. Things might be hard, but you’ve always got to know they’ll work out.
I grew up in Bristol and have been selling The Big Issue on and off around the city since I was 18. I’ve had pitches all over the place – Clifton, in the town centre. I’ve had my current pitch for about five years, outside the Co-op in Henleaze, and I feel like a part of the community
After going from hostels to B&Bs, I was put in a shared house, but my room got trespassed and things were stolen. I was uncomfortable being there, and I ended up having to make myself homeless because there weren’t any other good options. That was a year ago now.
Interacting with people keeps me going. It’s not just the chats, but helping keeping people safe, or helping them to their cars with the shopping. It’s a case of being straightforward and not putting people under pressure
People who live in the community never let me down. Dealing with my type 1 diabetes is difficult while sleeping rough, but customers and people in the community bring me things to help me out. You feel like you belong, and people worry about me if they haven’t seen me for a while. They’re pretty much a part of me and I’m grateful for them.
Selling the mag has helped me deal with negativity. If one person is a bit rude or is having a bad day, you can’t take that out on the next person you speak to by being moody. You’ve got to move on, blank that out and build on it so it doesn’t ruin your day. I’m pretty much smiling all the time.
Getting a card reader recently has been great for sales. I went to sell mags at a festival in the city and had to learn how to use one. It’s great – it’s easier for people and gives them more of a choice. I try to sell about 100 or 150 mags a week. You become a great salesman in a lovely community.
Things are hard at the moment, and you see a bit of a change in people with jobs disappearing and people becoming more at risk. People aren’t the same from two years ago.
I want to try and keep up good sales and keep looking after the community.
People like me are let down at such a young age, and there’s not enough people to make things easier with houses and jobs. I know people who end up fitting themselves into something they don’t want to do, because they think it’s the only way they can get through the system.
Right now, I’m waiting for accommodation. Going to Cardiff has been floated but maybe it’s a bit too soon, and it’d be hard coming away from somewhere when you know everybody in the community. If everyone wasn’t so fond of me it might be a different story, but I want to stick with them.
Not everything can come to us at once. It does take time for every individual to get what they want in life. It’s about being positive, sticking with the people you know and trust. You’ve got a lot to come towards you – you’ve just got to stay positive until that day happens.
Even if you say it’s not going to happen, that’s not true. I’ve known people say that to me and then a few months down the line they come and say they’ve got a new flat or a new job. You’ve just got to realise it does take time.
Interview: Greg Barradale
Co-op Food - Henleaze, Henleaze Road, Henleaze, Bristol, UK