Paul, Manchester City Centre

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have been selling Big Issue North on and off for years. I think I started when I was in my early thirties and now I’m 57. I started off selling the magazine in Bolton but then I moved to Wales for seven years. I have been back in Manchester for some time now though. 

Why did you first start selling the magazine?
So I could get some money for the basics. At the time, I was living on the streets and on New Age travelling sites and I wasn’t really getting any other income.

“Everyone is conditioned to get a nine to five job.”

What was your childhood like?
Pretty hard. I lost my mum when I was six and me and three of my brothers were put into care. I was in the care system from when I was six until I was 18. And that was in the Seventies, so it wasn’t very nice. When my care order was up, they just put me in an empty flat and said ‘See ya.’ I got no after care or support. 

When did you first become homeless?
Well I ran away a few times when I was in care. I ended up on the streets for the first time when I was 16 and I was on and off the streets for 25 or 30 years. A lot of people who had been in care ended up homeless. It was just the way it was in those days. I don’t know about the care system nowadays. I assume it’s a lot different. But back then there was a lot of mental abuse, a lot of physical abuse. 

How’s life now?
These days I am a lot more stable. I’ve got a missus, I’ve got a flat and I do some other work on a flower stall in Manchester for two days a week. My goal is to get a full time job one day. I have done all sorts of work in the past: gardening, roofing, painting and decorating. 

Tell us about life living on New Age traveller sites.
I lived with New Age travellers a lot. They were nice people, but a lot happened. I was there at the Battle of the Beanfield in 1985. There were about 300 people on this site, and the police just came in and raised it. They smashed everything up. They were dragging pregnant women through caravan windows and things like that. It was awful. Everyone is conditioned to get a nine to five job and settle down and when they see someone who is choosing to live an alternative lifestyle I think it scares them. And Thatcher was in power then and there was a lot of bad press about travellers and stuff but it was bullshit.

What makes you happy?
Going home to my girlfriend every night. We have been together for seven years. And doing a bit of work as well. That makes me happy. Coming out and seeing people. Doing just normal, everyday things. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
Selling the magazine really does help. It gives you focus, it gives you a base to start from. So please keep on buying the magazine and supporting us. 

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