Tom Cash, Brighton
Six months ago, I overdosed on Brighton beach, where I was found half-dead. I was really bad on heroin, crack and the drink. After that I came back to Oxford and I’m clean now. I’d hit rock bottom, but I’ve been given another chance in life.
I don’t remember the overdose, it’s a total blank. I remember being in hospital – I was there for about a month. When I came back to Oxford I was staying with a friend, but he was doing too many drugs and I knew I couldn’t stay there. That’s when Hannah and Liz at The Big Issue Foundation helped me get a place. Without them I wouldn’t have coped. They took me down to the council and helped me sort myself out.
I started doing drugs about 30 years ago, but I was clean for 15 years. However, after my mum died and my cousin took his own life, I went back on the drugs. I couldn’t cope, and drugs and alcohol were my escape. I lost my self-respect and had no respect for other people either. I’m a qualified block paver and slab worker and I used to be very good at it but that all went to pot when I went back on drugs.
Now I love selling The Big Issue. It gives me confidence and I’m part of society again. Being in Oxford I sell to people of all nationalities. Most of the people I meet on the street are polite. Sometimes they ignore you, but I don’t let it get me down.
I live in my own flat. I see old friends that still use drugs, but I keep telling them that if I can stop then they can too. They always give me a pat on the back. Before I wasn’t looking after myself properly and was just too consumed by drugs and drink. There’s a big difference in me now. And that’s down to The Big Issue.
I’m originally from Derry but I was raised in East London. I’m a traveller by blood. I’m proud of my identity and being part of that community. I just take one day at a time and whatever crosses my path I try to deal with it in a civil manner. I see myself as a recovering addict now so for me it feels nice to be nice.
Elizabeth Edwards, Service Broker, Oxford
Tom was new to Oxford when he first turned up to our office after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital. When we first met he was extremely disorientated and vulnerable and had no money or ID.
Straight away we took Tom to the council offices to present himself as homeless and in priority need of assistance. With our advocacy support, he was eventually deemed eligible and placed in temporary accommodation while the council worked to find him a room in supported housing.
Having established his legal name through his medical records, we helped Tom to obtain a birth certificate using the Vendor Support Fund. We also supported him to provide the documents necessary to open a bank account. He has very quickly settled into a regular selling routine and seems to have an innate ability for achieving high sales. He consistently sells over 50 magazines a week.
In terms of his health, Tom is now accessing a medical centre and is no longer using drugs or abusing alcohol. He has also started treatment for Hepatitis C.
We also recently assisted Tom to make an application to a local charity for a basic mobile phone which he uses every day to communicate with all the local services he’s working with.
Tom is financially stable and has moved rapidly away from homelessness to a more stable and settled way of living, which has made him a bit of role model amongst his friends.