A WOMAN who spent time living on the streets and is now one of the most senior female firefighters in the UK has been appointed an ambassador for the Big Issue magazine.

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, 36, who once worked as group commander of South Wales Fire and Rescue, had previously become homeless at the age of 15 and sold the Big Issue as a teenager.

In an interview with the magazine, she 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."

She said the Big Issue gave her an opportunity to earn money and have some dignity back.

"When you live that life, you feel invisible," she said.

"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, Ms 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."

Ms Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for 18 years and is currently deputy assistant commissioner of Surrey fire brigade.