Amy’s Story

Sunday, 22nd November 2015

When Amy Stevens secured a prime pitch at Euston Train Station it was a reward for the time she spent battling through job loss and homelessness. But she is now ready for the next leg of her journey.

I came to London last year, in the summer, after I lost a job on the south coast. I had been working in a restaurant in the Butlin’s resort in Bognor Regis. You live on site, work on site, and with pubs, restaurants and shops on site, you never really have to leave. On Friday nights, I would get together with my boss and colleagues and drink and eat – basically you become really close and they become your family. Unfortunately, the company changed and they had to let go of some of the front-of-house people, including me. When you get hit like that, you don’t really know what to do. By the time I realised what was happening and that I should have looked for more work, it was too late. I was already homeless. I was really unhappy, being homeless in an area where I had no idea where I was going, where a day centre was, where I could find help and support – it was lonely and life changing. One day I met a Big Issue vendor selling in Chichester, on the south coast. I asked him if he was earning enough to eat – I wanted to work but I didn’t want to take it on and end up worse than I already was. After he reassured me, the thought came to me that if the Big Issue operates here, I bet they do it in London, I bet it’s bigger and I bet there are more opportunities. So I decided to come to London and start again. Coming to the big city, I thought the job prospects would be better. I tried to look for work, with no joy. The first six months were tough. I had to sleep rough for a time, which wasn’t easy and certainly wears you down.

By now it was winter, I needed to get out of my situation. I remembered the Big Issue vendor in Chichester, so I went to the Big Issue office and got myself registered to sell the magazine. My first pitch was at Angel and it wasn’t easy at first but I soon got into the swing of it. The Big Issue staff were great, helped me out with a few things, and I started to realise selling the magazine really suited me. It’s flexible work, it’s been helping me get my confidence back after a rough time and, of course, it gives me some money. Also, I really enjoy working outdoors with no boss standing over me telling me to do this or that. It’s never a slog, and with so many different people around, the days are always different. It’s broadened my horizons.

I changed my pitch after a while to sell at Tower Hill. I enjoyed chatting to the tourists over there. They’re always in a good mood, not in a rush, and they really appreciate what’s around them. In the spring, the Big Issue Foundation gave me the chance to sell on a pitch at Euston station. It’s different to the other pitches as we need special permission to sell on the station concourse – it’s new, busy and can be overwhelming. Matthew from the Foundation offered so much support, education and stability to overcome the first hurdles I faced in this new environment. It’s a real honour to be chosen for the Euston pitch and it is great for the Big Issue to have a presence here. So many people have bought the magazine for the first time because of this pitch. I really enjoy working in the station environment, and everyone has been very supportive. I am finding the work experience with the mobility team really interesting and hope that it will help me to get a job in a similar role in the future.

I’ve got a place to stay now, in a small flat in Wood Green, near Turnpike Lane in north London. It’s a lovely area, where I’m living. It’s quite leafy, with lots of parks. I’ve got a bit of stability and I hope I can keep it going by selling the magazine.

Amy is on her pitch Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 8pm.

Why Euston is happy to help

We've had nothing but positive feedback since we started the trial pitch at Euston a year ago and Amy has become very much part of the team here. She is receiving training in our mobility assistance reception and is definitely developing into a highly valued team member. We're very proud that we could kick start this initiative as it is of great benefit to both the Big Issue and Network Rail. I really hope that other managed stations take this opportunity to get involved. Rebecca Richards, Euston Station.

HOW VENDING AT EUSTON WORKS

"We approach vendors based on our working relationship with them and try to select vendors who are interested in making the most of the opportunity and perhaps interested in moving on to other areas of employment. An interest in trains is also helpful!

We prepare vendors with a meet-and greet tour of the station and key staff.

This helps build confidence and the vendor knows what to expect. We also work on an action plan to establish some key objectives.

Amy had demonstrated a commitment to working regular hours at her old pitch in Tower Hill and had also expressed an interest in getting a full-time job. We have been working with Amy in other areas of support including her engagement with a housing association and she is much more stable now and in a better position to pursue employment opportunities. Although we work with people in difficult situations, a lot of what we do is very positive. It’s great to work with vendors like Amy who respond to an opportunity and whose situation improves before your eyes.”

Matt Morley, London area service manager

 

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