I have had a lot of challenges in my life. I was put in care when I was six weeks old because I had a very bad family situation. I was abused at school, and when I left care at 16, I joined the fairground.
I’m 43 now, and I’ve been on the streets and in and out of prison for many years. I’ve married twice and have children, but I haven’t seen my family for years. I’ve just been coping on my own.
Back in 1992, a filmmaker made a film about me - ‘Praying for Paul’. I was out of control back then. He filmed me living on the streets. I’m still in touch with him now.
It was a woman called Donna, from Penge, who gave me a bed for the night. I ended up staying with her for 17 weeks. She was so kind - it came out of the blue. She helped me get off the streets.
I’ve come full circle, but I’m in a different place now. The local people round here have given me a chance and I’m not giving up.
I’ve done a lot of therapy and worked on myself. I have bipolar disorder and it’s really hard to control, but I’m taking medication and I have a mentor helping me. The Big Issue has kept me sane. It has helped me so much.
All I want is a little job and a place to sleep. It’s hard to get work with a criminal record, but once I have permanent accommodation I can apply for an agency job as a dustman. There’s a local who used to be an MP, and he’s said that he’ll give me a reference when I need it. I should have a place in Lambeth soon.
I used to sleep in the churchyard across from the station. There were eight of us sleeping there. We stuck together and we looked out for each other - no one else will. It’s horrible, nasty, living on the streets.
I’ve been selling the Big Issue outside Oval station since September 2018. I’ve connected with people around here. The customers pick me up - they give me a lift. The people in the Tube Station are really nice. They bring me food and tea.
I was born and bred round here, in a house nearby. I was the only white geezer here for about ten years! This part of south London used to be dangerous and violent. Slowly and surely it has changed. Nowhere is perfect, but there’s a happy vibe here.
For many years I couldn’t talk about the things that have happened to me, but I want to share my story now, and help young kids. I’ve come full circle, but I’m in a different place now. The local people round here have given me a chance and I’m not giving up. I don’t want to be the old Paul anymore, I want to be the Paul I am now.Read more Oval Stories