Alan Massey, Worcester
I looked after my mum for five years because she had Alzheimer’s and when she passed away I moved in with my partner. I had to move out when we broke up and that was it, basically. I did a bit of sofa-surfing with friends at first but eventually I ended up living under a bridge near to where my mum and I used to live. After a while I managed to put up a tent there and that was where I lived for about two-and-a-half years. I just piled on the sleeping bags and blankets when it got cold.
When I first started selling The Big Issue, my GP was over 15 miles away, but Katie, the Service Broker from The Big Issue Foundation made sure I knew where the local walk-in centre was. She also made sure I was aware of the winter night shelter in case I needed to get out of the cold.
In the end I thought, “I’m getting a bit old for this” so I went into emergency accommodation, which was a Bed & Breakfast, for nearly two years. Then last Christmas I went to my friend’s house. She lives in a block of flats, so she called her landlord and he said he had a flat going. I moved in on January 4th this year. It’s coming together slowly but surely.
October 1st was my five-year anniversary selling The Big Issue. I’ve had the same pitch throughout and I’ve got quite a few regulars now. At the moment I have a giraffe with pears all over him next to my pitch. It’s a campaign called Standing Tall in Worcester, in aid of St Richard’s Hospice, and there are 60 decorated giraffes all over town. It’s a game for kids – they have to mark each giraffe off as they find them.
The Big Issue Foundation Vendor Support Fund helped me to get a passport, open a bank account and buy a microwave for my new flat. The fund is a vital life-line when you’re trying to get back on track and piece your life back together.
This job is my social life. Sometimes I spend more time talking than I do selling, but that’s the way it goes. I really enjoy it. I’d go mad if I was stuck in my flat all day. I’ve got about 20 or 30 regulars who always turn up. A positive attitude helps. A customer once brought me a big bag of coppers and said it was my lucky day. I said, “Every day’s a lucky day as I’m still breathing!” As long as I wake up in the morning and can get out and do what I want to do then I’m happy.
When my mum was alive I was her full-time carer. Alzheimer’s goes in three stages and I moved in with her when she was midway through the first stage. It progressed, and she gradually got worse and worse so in the end I was doing everything. I’m a pipe fitter by trade but I gave that up to care for my mum. After five years of not really doing anything physical the idea of humping pipes around or going up scaffolds – I don’t think so! I like people and I talk a lot, so this is the job for me for now. If I can talk about Formula One, all the better!
Katie Moreton, Service Broker Team Leader, West Midlands
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Alan for about a year now. Every time I go on Outreach to Worcester we have a catch up, often talking about the Formula One, although Alan knows a lot more about it than I do.
There’s always someone talking with Alan, whether it’s to buy the magazine or to ask him directions. He tells me he is like a tour guide in that sense and he’s told me about some of the history of Worcester too! It’s great to see how far Alan has come in the last few years and I’m happy that he’s now in a flat where he’s settled and has friends around him.