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Senior firefighter who spent her teenage years homeless appointed ambassador for The Big Issue to inspire others

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton became homeless at the age of 15. Credit: Big Issue/PA

One of the UK's most senior female firefighters has revealed she spent her teenage years living rough as she is today appointed an ambassador for The Big Issue magazine.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, 36, became homeless at the age of 15 and sold the publication as a teenager.

Speaking today, she said she wanted her story to show others sleeping rough that it is possible to turn your life around and triumph over adversity.

Dr Cohen-Hatton revealed she used to sleep in doorways or subways and selling the Big Issue gave her the chance to not only earn money but also retain some dignity.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton applied to more than 30 fire services before she secured a job. Credit: Matt Smith/Big Issue/PA

In an interview with The Big Issue, Dr Cohen-Hatton who is currently deputy assistant commissioner of Surrey fire brigade, said: “Life was brilliant until my dad got ill.

“He was given six months to live but ended up living for six years. He was an awesome man. Him and my mum absolutely idolised each other. “After he died she suffered very badly with her mental health. Things were really difficult. We were completely poverty-stricken.

“It wasn’t long before I was sleeping rough. On and off, for two years I was either sleeping rough or vulnerably housed.

“We used to sleep in the doorway of a disused church until it was boarded up, I would sleep in subways.”

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Dr Cohen-Hatton said: “When you live that life, you feel invisible. You feel like a ghost in society.

"If someone in the street falls over, people rush over to help, but there you are on the street corner with no food in your belly, nowhere to live, no clean clothes and people walk past you like you are not there."

On her escape from the streets into a firefighting career, Dr Cohen-Hatton said: “I really wanted to join the fire service. Even when I was still homeless, this was what I was aspiring to.

“I applied to 30 different fire services across the country. I would have gone anywhere, but I got the job in South Wales and it was all up from there.

“I knew what rock bottom felt like. I knew what the worst possible day felt like and I certainly knew what vulnerability felt like. I saw it as an opportunity to rescue other people in a way that no one rescued me. That is something that I carry with me every single day when I go to work.”

Dr Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for 18 years.

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She studied psychology and has written a book on life-and-death decision-making called Heat Of The Moment.

The Big Issue, featuring Sabrina on the cover, is available to buy from April 15.