Vendor of the Week
Vendor Profile - Emma Folan
I’ve been selling the magazine for 10 weeks now.
I think some people believe that all street vendors suffer from alcohol and drug addiction, but that’s not true. Anybody can fall on hard times. The Big Issue in the North helps the vulnerable, too.
I became involved with The Big Issue in the North through my friend, Morley, also a street vendor. When I first met him, and he told me he sold the magazine, I stereotyped him, but I was wrong. Selling the magazines has turned my life around.
I don’t have a very good family background. I have Sotos Syndrome [a rare, genetic disorder that causes extreme physical growth in childhood and can sometimes cause delayed intellectual development]. I couldn’t cope in mainstream schools because of my learning difficulties so I attended a special needs school. Those were the best days of my life. I cried the day I had to leave because I wanted to stay.
I worked as a care assistant after I left school, which I really enjoyed. I got married but my husband was violent. My mental health deteriorated to the point where I had to give up work. I walked out of an abusive marriage and had nothing.
I’ve never slept rough, but I’ve done the hostels. Some of them were really bad.
After 16 years of suffering from depression, I’ve finally been referred to a psychiatrist. It’s appalling how long I’ve had to wait.
I’m passionate about raising awareness of mental health issues and altering people’s attitudes. I became involved with Collective Encounters, an organization that uses drama to campaign for social change. So far I’ve been in five plays.
Last year we took one of our plays to the Royal Opera House as part of the With One Voice Festival. It was awesome. Recently I performed in Liverpool, playing the part of a young woman who grew up in the care system.
Acting has brought me out of my shell and given me the confidence to be myself. I’ve learned that I’m the same as everyone else, in spite of my learning difficulties.
I’m from Wavertree, but I live in Tuebrook now, in supported accommodation, which means I have my own flat but there are staff on hand 24/7 if I need them.
I was nervous about living alone but the team at the Liverpool office, who helped set up the accommodation, encouraged me to go for it.
My dog Pippa keeps me company. I’ve had her since she was a few weeks old.
I do a creative writing course with Crisis Skylight Merseyside. I’ve just been awarded my developing creative writing skills certificate. I get distracted easily but writing helps me to focus. My stories are usually about fairies and animals. They’re always happy.
I also take a couple of drawing courses.
Selling The Big Issue in the North helps with my mental health issues. It gives me a reason to get out of bed. If I didn’t have this to motivate me, I’d just be sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. It really is a lifeline for me.
I’m not a pushy vendor. I think it’s important to be really polite and wish people a nice day. I’ve already got some regular customers who ask if I’m OK if they haven’t seen me for a few days. We have a laugh and a joke.
I think it’s a really nice way for people to support others.
My message to homeless people is that if I can get my life on track, in spite of all the things I’ve had to cope with, anybody can.
CommentsBrilliant story, keep it up
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