Richard, Bromborough, Wirral

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born in Slovakia and I’m 42 soon. I have sold Big Issue North for around five years.

‘I am only from Slovakia – I am not from another planet’

How long have you lived in the UK?
I first came to the UK to work in 1998. And then I came back and lived on the Isle of Wight in 2008, working at a waste plant operation.

What work did you do?
I was an engineer in my own country. I was a welder and started this when I was 15 years old. I am also a plumber and I can drive a forklift.

How did you become homeless?
I used to have a family when I lived on the Isle of Wight. I had a wife and two kids, a son and daughter. But the family broke up and soon after I lost my job. I came to Liverpool to look for work but I could not find a job or anywhere to live. I ended up on the streets. I slept behind a railway station for seven and a half months. It was very difficult, very cold. I nearly died.
It was then that I started selling Big Issue North.

What effects did sleeping on the streets have on you?
I become very ill. I nearly died. I had bleeding from my bowel because of the cold. This meant I was tired all of the time and I could not find any other work. A couple of years ago I had an operation on my bowel, which has helped this.

Have you been affected by Brexit?
I applied for my permanent residence card, but my application has been declined by the Home Office. I have sent lots of information to them to prove that I have been working here for many years: my payslips, benefit information, evidence of studying here. I have lived at the same address for nearly six years. I have been self-employed since 2008. I do my tax return, pay my council tax and my bills. The letter they sent was very hard to understand and it was not signed by anyone, just Caseworker One. I don’t think that anyone read all the documents I sent.

What are you going to do?
It costs £65.50 to apply and it was an 85-page document, which the staff at Big Issue North helped me to fill out. I’m probably just going to try again, fill the form out and pay again. If not, I don’t know what to do.

What would you do if you had to leave?
I cannot leave. My family is broken and I love this country. This is my home. I am only from Slovakia – it’s not that far. I am not from another planet, you know? A friend who was born in London has bought a house in Slovakia. He is an artist. He likes it there. If he decides to live there and he likes it, why not? And I have decided that I want to live here and I have done it properly. I think they cannot send me away.

Why do you think this has happened?
They are trying to push a lot of people out of this country and back to the European Union. It feels like it’s all about the politics now.

What keeps you going in life?
Never surrender!

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