A former Big Issue seller who featured in a BBC documentary about homelessness has released a Christmas single to raise funds for homeless charities.
58-year-old Vernon Burgess starred in SKINT – a programme which portrayed an honest, eye-opening insight into homelessness and poverty in Birmingham.
Vernon has teamed up with producer No Abode for the track, which is called ‘Vernon’s Song’, and said: “I was busking in Moseley when I met No Abode. He said I had a bit of talent and asked me if I would like to do a song.
“Everyone still knows me from SKINT and people still watch it on their phones and recognise me. I’ve been able to get through life easier because of it. I’m not a millionaire or anything like that but it has changed my life.
“A Christmas number one would be something – the more people support this song, the more the homeless are going to get helped.”
Vernon is no longer homeless and now lives in a flat in Dudley, but says the song tells of the impact of homelessness on his relationships and how the day-to-day struggles impacted his mental health.
Burgess said: “I lost a lot of friends who were homeless. I sold the Big Issue for years, I lived on the street for years on and off, but all my friends have died. I still live with it all and I struggle daily to get through.
“It’s real lives at stake with homelessness. People don’t realise – unless you’ve been in that situation yourself – they’re victims obviously and it’s really vicious out there.”
No Abode added: “This isn’t your average Christmas song, yes, it’s sad and hard-hitting but it’s necessary.
“It’s pretty unique, I don’t think there’s anything like this out there and it has its place. Christmas is a two-sided coin, if you’re financially stable it can be amazing, if you’re struggling it can be a very dark time indeed.
“When you walk the streets, you can see it for yourself, poverty, homelessness, everywhere. It’s important to remember those less fortunate, give a little, at least acknowledge what’s going on around us because the sobering reality is it could happen to anyone.”
Vernon’s Song will be released on 15 December with all proceeds shared between homelessness charities Crisis and Shelter. The song will be available to purchase on Apple Music.