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Josie Doyle, Next, Commercial Rd, Bournemouth

“The Big Issue is keeping a roof over our heads at the moment”

I starting selling the magazine about three years ago, and it really helped me finally get clean of substance abuse. Things were okay for a couple of years, but then I found myself in a tricky situation and homeless about five or six months ago, so I picked up the work again.

Things have been better since then. I don’t think I realise how depressed I was, before I came back to selling The Big Issue. But the magazine really lifted me – it gave me a reason to get up in the morning, go out and do something positive with the day.

I’ve been working hard at it, and it really helps having such nice customers here in Bournemouth happy to have a chat. I was actually the highest selling vendor in Bournemouth one of weeks leading up to Christmas.

My boyfriend Matt also sells the magazine, so we have competitions to see who can sell more. It means we’ve managed to rent a small studio flat together. The Big Issue is keeping a roof over our heads at the moment, and it even allowed us to earn enough to go all out and make a really nice Christmas dinner together.

Over the years, I’ve slept on the streets, stayed on friends’ sofas. I’ve moved up and down the country like a yo-yo. I think it probably stems from an unsettled childhood – I was part of a large family and we moved around from school to school and council estate to council estate.

I actually went to a hippy school in north Devon for a while, a bit like a Steiner school. Very unstructured – it was the kind of place you learned a bit of witchcraft and telepathy alongside your French. I did enjoy being there. Although I was truant a lot of my school years, I did love art – that was my passion. I think I used to paint and draw as an escape from reality.

I’m quite a creative person – even if it’s just making bracelets, I’ll always find something to occupy my creative side. I’ve had some of my painting featured in gallery exhibitions. One of my oil paintings was based on Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation of the Dead Christ.

I’ve also kept writing poems over the years. I’m not trying to write the perfect poem, it’s just very therapeutic to write out your thoughts and try to capture them as best you can. Whenever family tragedy has struck, it’s really helped me get through it.

Things are going well for Matt and me here in Bournemouth. We’ve been through a lot together in the past 11 years together. But now we have somewhere that feels like home. And so long as I’m with Matt I can get through anything.

My Favourite Artist: My nan. She taught art for a while, and she taught me how to draw and paint. My passion for art comes from her.

My Favourite Town: Bournemouth. It has idyllic beaches and lovely buildings. I’ve moved around a lot, but I can’t see myself leaving this place now.

Commercial Road, Bournemouth, UK

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