By Dodge Dawson, Big Issue vendor
Another vendor introduced me to The Big Issue up in Victoria about 20 years ago and I’ve liked it ever since, to be honest. I was living in a tent after a family breakdown and I’d just come out of jail so I didn’t have any income. So when I came out I was looking for a way to support myself and that’s where The Big Issue came in.
I slept rough for about 25 years, but I’ve got supported housing now. It means the world to have my own front door. It makes me realise how far I’ve come. I’ll never forget the first day I ever ended up in the tent. It was fucking scary and from that day to this is a big step. I’m not being cocky, but I’m a big bloke and I can sort of handle things, but even I was scared sometimes. Anyone that lives in a tent [who says] that they ain’t scared is a liar.
I’ve come and gone over the years, but The Big Issue has always been there for me to rely on to keep my head straight. At this moment I’m getting a lot of support in getting my ID, and also it’s somewhere to go and chat to get things off my chest. There’s a certain member of staff that I really get on with and she’s managed to sort out my birth certificate. I’m in the process of getting my passport so I can get a bank account.
I got my plastering course and my drylining course when I was in jail and I loved it. So being a self-employed plasterer is my intention. I’ve also done window-cleaning so there are a few things in the pipeline and getting my bank account is one step nearer to where I want to be. The Big Issue has helped with my confidence and skills, big time. I suffer from agoraphobia and when I got rebadged to sell the magazine I spoke to someone in the office about it and they gave me the confidence to go and try it. Now I manage to go out most of the day.
I volunteer for a charity called Street Vets. There’s a couple of vets and nurses that come out and if there’s someone in vulnerable housing with a pet, we can microchip it, we can supply medical attention, give them leads – stuff like that. I’m there to help put the marquees up and help out. For example, we might get a dog barking his goolies off and they’ll say, “Dodge, can you just hold the dog mate?” I’m like the bouncer. I also volunteer for Pathway, in the NHS. I’m an EBE – an expert by experience – of being homeless and an alcoholic. We try to sort out how we can get the people in the top room to put money in. People have given me a lot in my life, so now I’m giving something back.
I’m an alcoholic, but I’m trying to become a recovering alcoholic. I drink some days, other days I don’t. It depends how I feel at the time. I’ve got no family but I do have a partner and a brilliant circle of friends around me. So my way of dealing with my problems now is to come up to my mate’s and just nag his earhole off.