Lee Barnes, 37, Portswood Road, Southampton

“Working with Southampton FC was amazing. I’m still floating on air”

I was lucky enough to sell the magazine outside Southampton FC’s stadium at the first game of the season. It’s part of an amazing partnership the club now has with The Big Issue.

Some vendors featured in a special edition of the magazine that was used as the matchday programme (below), and me and another local vendor Mark even got to meet some of the players at the training ground. It was an absolutely amazing experience. I’m still floating on air about it all.

We spent a bit of time with Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida, but so many of the players and the youth team and the coaches all came over to say hello. There’s a lot of talk about prima donnas in football, but these guys were such lovely people.

Saints Foundation are now giving Big Issue vendors a chance to join an eight-week employability course too, which is fantastic.

There’s a lot of talk about prima donnas in football, but these guys were such lovely people

Big Issue boost

I’m a massive football fan. I began supporting Kidderminster after I had some success playing as them in the Championship Manager ’93 computer game. But when I moved down to Southampton in 1998, I began to follow them avidly. They’re a side that are playing good football and I think we’ll finish in the top seven this year.

I grew up in Luton, but I came here because a couple of friends said there were more jobs. I did telesales, then I worked as a croupier in a casino, but that didn’t work out. After a friend I was staying with moved away, I struggled to pay rent, and things spiralled from there.

I’ve been homeless on and off for about a decade. When you’re in a rut it’s easy to lose your confidence, and when I came back to selling The Big Issue a few years ago, it gave me a great boost. The kindness people have shown to me is heart-warming – it’s almost had me in tears at times. Without my customers, I don’t know where I’d be.

At the moment, I’m sleeping outside the steps of the Victory Church. I’ve put together a comfortable- enough shelter and the people at the church have been very good to me. I’m hoping I might get a private flat in the next month. Thanks to some great support, I’m able to look onwards and upwards.

My favourite author… Terry Pratchett. I love reading in the evening – mostly crime thrillers. But Pratchett’s books are my all-time favourite, and I’d pick out The Light Fantastic, the second Discworld novel, as his best work.

My football clubs… Kidderminster and Southampton. I’ve followed Southampton ever since I moved here. Since meeting the players, I’ve got a special connection to the club.

On my pitch… I’m outside Waitrose on Portswood Road daily from 10am
until 7pm.

Photo: Antony Burdett Clark

Portswood Road, Southampton, United Kingdom

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