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Richard Dawson, Sainsbury’s Local, Fishponds, Bristol

Things are looking up for Richard now that he’s had a job offer and escaped the tough times that came before

I was offered a job at Sainsbury’s just a couple of weeks after I started selling the magazine here. I got the offer of a 12-hour contract working shifts stacking shelves and on the till.

I was selling the magazine one Tuesday and there was a thief in the store, so I told the Sainsbury’s staff. On the Wednesday the manager came out to see me and said: “Would you be interested in a job?” I said yeah and asked him why he was offering it to me. He said he liked how I spoke to staff and how I was very nice to customers, helping them where I can. He told me he just wanted to give me a chance.

We had an interview and he told me to be honest with him. So I told him about my criminal record. It’s been really hard for me to get a job in the past. I’ve been in charity shops and even they have refused me because of my record. After I was offered the job I texted the lady who offered me it to say thank you very much for giving me a chance in life again. It’s all about getting your foot in the door.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take the job because I don’t have a birth certificate. At the moment I am just waiting for a new certificate to come through. People at The Big Issue have really helped me, I paid a fiver towards it and they paid the rest. As soon as that comes through they’ve got another job there for me to start.

I was homeless in Weston-super-Mare when I met Hattie from the Big Issue office, who told me they were recruiting. So I took it up in Weston for a couple of days and unfortunately it didn’t go as well as it has in Bristol. I get it easy down here because it’s a bigger city and things move a lot quicker. I like to meet different people and talk to them about stuff. My customers ask me about my background, so I tell them the truth. You just get nice people and I’m all about talking to them and making new friends, really. Everything has been going well so far since I’ve been doing The Big Issue. It does work for people.

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I’ve had a tough time of things. I was inside between 2013 and 2017 for a street robbery. When I came out I was living in Birmingham, where I’m originally from, and then I was human trafficked. I was beat up every day and I got a broken nose and a broken elbow out of that. I was moved down to Weston in a safe house, and from there I managed to get into shared accommodation. I got with my ex-partner, and then ended up being recalled back into jail in 2020. When I came out I was homeless in Weston living in supported accommodation. I got a job working in a nightclub, then I left in June and I became homeless after that, so I started The Big Issue.

At the moment I’m looking for flats because the emergency accommodation I’m in has people waking me up at four o’clock every morning shouting and screaming. In a year’s time I hope I can be working 40 hours a week at Sainsbury’s, have my own flat and be still selling The Big Issue.

I plan to sell The Big Issue alongside the Sainsbury’s job. I’m told there hasn’t been anyone on this pitch for about a year and a half and I’d like to keep selling, even if I gave the whole money back to The Big Issue. It’s all about giving back.

If it weren’t for The Big Issue I wouldn’t be getting anywhere. Without them I’d be stuck in the same boat.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Sainsbury's Local, Fishponds Road, Fishponds, Bristol, UK