Keith, Royal Exchange, Manchester

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 49 years old and originally from Leeds but I moved over to Manchester for a woman and the promise of a job. Things didn’t work out though.

‘Now I’m in my own place – much better than sleeping in doorways.’

When did you start selling Big Issue North?
Since 1996. I’ve sold on and off since then. I started using drugs when I was about 24. It was nothing serious at first. Just a bit of a laugh, me and my mates doing a bit of weed. I had this window cleaning job and it was hard work so we used to take speed to help get through the day. Then I was not sleeping for days and someone suggested I try a bit of brown to take the edge off things. So I tried it, thinking I wouldn’t get hooked, but after three or four days it’s got you. Now I’ve been clean for so long, I don’t know how long it’s been. I used to count the number of months and days it was since I last used but now I don’t know and that’s a good thing because I’m not thinking about it all the time.

Where are you living now?
I was in this hostel. I had a small bedroom, and there were some nutcases in there, especially at weekend. There was always something kicking off. Now I’m in my own place through the charity Nacro and it’s top. I have my own kitchen, my own bathroom and I have a massive living room. Of course, it does mean having to pay bills and stuff, but I’ve landed on my feet. It’s really nice – much better than being on the street and sleeping in doorways.

What do you hope for in the future?
I want to move on. The job market is still tough. I must have applied for hundreds of jobs and I’ve only ever had one reply. I think they lie saying unemployment is so low. I know lots of people who are struggling and they haven’t had jobs for years. It’s hard for me to get another job because I’m an ex-offender and I have no real skills. You get a lot of people shouting at you “go on and get a job”, and I think would you rather I burgled your house or be stood here?

What makes you happy?
Bit of music, sun shining, being nice and clean, something in my stomach and some money in my pocket. Finding a job that I can apply for – that gives me a bit of hope, you know.

What do you like about Manchester?
I have always loved Manchester since I was a kid. It’s modern and it has some great music from here. If people visit here, there’s loads of things worth seeing. There’s MediaCity, the Science Museum, they should take a look around St Ann’s Square where my pitch is and have a walk down by the river. There are some lovely apartments down there – wouldn’t mind one myself – but I’m going to need a big tip off a customer if that’s ever going to happen.

Do you have a message for your customers?
I want to thank them all for their continued support. They mean everything to me.

Interact: Responses to Keith, Royal Exchange, Manchester

  • Stephen
    25 Sep 2017 20:13
    Good on you Keith. I like you love Manchester. I what to be a vender

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