Kirsten, Liverpool city centre

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 48 and I’ve just started selling the magazine. This is only my second day! My partner, Alby, is a Big Issue North seller as well and he’s been selling it for a long time. 

‘I don’t think of the here and now. I think of the day after’

How is it going so far?
It’s fun, although it can be a bit tiresome sometimes. The street is like a room full of people, but I may as well be standing on my own, talking to myself in the corner. I stand in a place where there are CCTV cameras on me so I feel a bit safer, but I have been harassed on my pitch. One bloke came up and offered me £20 to go with him and put his hands on me. I told him where to go.

Tell us about your partner.
I have known Alby since he was six – he’s now 41. I used to help babysit him, but we lost touch for a long time, then found each other again on Facebook. Now we have been together for about seven months. We have a dog called Kane. He’s a Staffy cross and he lives with Alby in his flat. 

Where are you staying now?
I have just moved into a homeless hostel but to be honest I’d rather be out on the streets than there. It’s a bit run down, the radiator leaks and, although you can lock the door, you hear the noises, the shouting and the screaming from other residents. The staff there are lovely, but I don’t drink or do drugs so it’s not my kind of place. My partner has a place in supported accommodation but I can’t stay with him because he’s not allowed people staying. He even sleeps out with me to keep me safe. But I have got a viewing on a flat tonight and it looks like I have somewhere to move in to, which would be ideal, especially after nearly nine months on the streets. 

How did you end up on the streets?
I got into a horrible relationship and was in it for three years. When it fizzled out, he wouldn’t leave the property we were in, so I gave up the tenancy. This was in Macclesfield. I wanted to move back to Ellesmere Port where I was before, but the housing said they wouldn’t help because I’d come from Macclesfield and made myself homeless.

Do you have any family?
I have six children and two others who died, and I have a grandchild and two more on the way. I have a good relationship with some of my children, but not all of them. I have bipolar, which was only recently diagnosed. Every day is a battle when you have bipolar or any mental health problem. Some days it’s scary. I don’t want to get out of bed. I used to have terrible mood swings and I have been vulnerable in the past and blokes have seen that and taken advantage. I was also sexually assaulted from an early age. 

You seem a positive person despite all of that. How do you cope?
If you don’t smile, you cry. I think of the bigger picture. I don’t think of the here and now – I think of the day after, the year after. I book in advance for my life. 

What are your plans?
I was due to marry Alby on 27 January this year but, because of our homeless situation, it didn’t pan out, so we are looking to reschedule that later in the year. I want to be happy, I want to be settled and I want another job. I mean, selling the magazine is a job but I’d like a different one as well. I’ve just applied for a cleaning job and I am hoping to start that soon. 

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Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

We have taken the difficult decision to tell our vendors that they cannot sell Big Issue North on the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, for the safety of the public and themselves.

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