Paul Millwall, 43
Support Paul this winter
50% of net proceeds from your purchase of a gift subscription will go direct to Paul
I was put in care when I was six weeks old. I had a difficult time at school so left at 16 and joined the fairground. They were my guardians – I had the time of my life.
I’ve been on the streets and in and out of prison for many years. I’ve married twice and have children, but I haven’t seen my family for years. I’ve just been coping on my own.
I used to sleep in the churchyard across from the station. There were eight of us sleeping there. We stuck together and we looked out for each other – no one else will.
Selling the magazine and having a good support network around me, like my mental health worker, has got me back on track in a way I never thought I could be
Back in 1992, a filmmaker made a documentary about me called Praying for Paul. I was out of control back then. He filmed me living on the streets. I’m still in touch with him now. It was a woman called Donna, from Penge, who gave me a bed for the night off the back of that. I ended up staying with her for 17 weeks. She was so kind – it came out of the blue. She helped me get off the streets.
I have bipolar disorder that I take medication for and I see a mentor. I got out of prison a year ago and I was scared, but I gave The Big Issue a try and it has changed me completely. Selling the magazine and having a good support network around me, like my mental health worker, has got me back on track in a way I never thought I could be.
I was born and bred round here, in a house nearby. Nowhere is perfect, but there’s a happy vibe here. I’m in a temporary place now, and I’m bidding now for a council flat in Lambeth, which I’m over the moon about. I could apply for a job as a dustman once I have permanent accommodation. All I want is a little job and a place to sleep. It’s hard to get work with a criminal record.
For many years I couldn’t talk about the things that have happened to me, but I want to share my story now, and help young kids
I was part of a poster series that went up in the station telling local people’s stories. Since that went up, it seems to me that a lot of people in the community are talking to each other instead of looking at their phones. Some people have opened up to me about their own mental health struggles, saying they can relate.
The people around here are really kind to me. There’s a local cafe that brings me coffee every morning and sometimes kind people will bring me warm food if I’m standing selling the magazine on a cold day.
For many years I couldn’t talk about the things that have happened to me, but I want to share my story now, and help young kids. I’ve come full circle, but I’m in a different place now. The local people round here have given me a chance and I’m not giving up. I don’t want to be the old Paul anymore, I want to be the Paul I am now.
Image: Orlando Gili
Pret a Manger, Waterloo Road, London SE1 7AA, UK