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Julie Cherry, 47, outside M&S, Wimborne, Bournemouth

“It’s harder to be a woman when you’re rough sleeping”

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I’m originally from Kent but I moved to London when I was 17 and worked there for years. My mum died, and then my dad died and my relationship broke down. I wanted a complete change so I came to Bournemouth.

I started selling the magazine after I got sick and ended up losing everything. I’d been working in the NHS secretarial temps bank but I got Graves’ disease, so they had to let me go. I’d been pretty comfortable but then it all fell apart and I ended up homeless.

I started selling the magazine after I got sick and ended up losing everything

To begin with I was rough sleeping and it was awful. I was lucky because I found someone who wasn’t on drugs and he took me under his wing. But before that I literally walked the streets all night because I was too scared to sleep. Then I’d go to the library and sleep there. It’s harder to be a woman when you’re rough sleeping.

After that I was in a hostel and when I started to feel better I said, ‘Give me two months and I will find a flat.’ It took me nearly four, but I was very determined. I’d been self-sufficient for so long and being a secretary I knew how to use the internet and look for places. Eventually I got a one-bedroom disability flat near the university.

My pitch isn’t as busy as it used to be but I’ve got to know lots of people. I get people swearing at me and telling me to get a job. I just don’t react. The only time it upset me was when I went to move a trolley and a woman came running out calling me a thief, thinking I was going to steal the pound. Most people are polite though, or they just ignore you. I do sometimes feel invisible in spite of my red tabard.

Through The Big Issue I’ve got a second job as a safety steward at Southampton Football Club and they’ve put me forward for some courses. I’m hoping to stop doing The Big Issue soon and go back to secretarial work, but only when my consultant says so.

Most people are polite, or they just ignore you. I do sometimes feel invisible in spite of my red tabard

When my health is better I’d like to get back into travelling. My favourite place is Kefalonia. I was there in 2014 and I’ve been to all the Greek islands. I’m going on holiday to Lanzarote with another vendor at the end of February when the work will be quiet. We’ve been saving for this since we started. We’ll get some winter sun and come back refreshed.

My female icon… My mum was my role model, even though we were completely different from each other.

My favourite author… Patricia Cornwell. Her books make me think. I work backwards and try to work out during the book who’s done it. I haven’t found a bad one of hers yet.

On my pitch… I’m here Monday to Friday from 9.30am-1.30pm and Saturday from 9.30am-4pm.

Photo: Louise Jolley

Marks & Spencers, Wimborne, Bournemouth