Nikolay, Manchester city centre

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How long have you sold Big Issue North for?
I used to sell the magazine in Manchester about five years ago but then I found a job at a holiday park in the Lake District. But the season finished in November and so my job ended and now I’m back in Manchester. I needed a job quickly and because I have sold Big Issue North before I was able to start selling again quickly. When I first started selling the magazine it was because people from Bulgaria and Romania could not get a normal working permit to work here in the UK, but we could be self-employed. Selling the magazine was one way we could earn money. It’s not too much money, but it’s okay. 

‘I have not been homeless my whole life. I like to have clean clothes’

What job did you do in the holiday park?
I was a kitchen porter. It was a good job because it came with accommodation in a caravan and it was just a five minute walk to the restaurant so I didn’t need a car or anything. The money was okay. When that job finished I went back to Bulgaria for a month and then I came back to Manchester. I was hoping to get another kitchen porter job in the city but my flight was delayed and I missed an interview and I had no work and nowhere to live. So I went back to the Booth Centre for homeless people and they all remembered me and welcomed me back. 

Where are you living now?
I am in a hostel in Manchester run by an organisation called Spin and a church.

Why did you first come to the UK?
I came to the UK 12 years ago. When Bulgaria joined the European Union I lost my business. I used to have a little restaurant but then we had a new government and things changed. When Bulgaria joined the EU everything went down. Bulgaria is now a great place for foreigners. Many English people buy property around the Black Sea because the water is lovely, 38 degrees, and it’s a beautiful place. I guess life in my own country is okay for young people who work in IT but for someone like me there is nothing. 

Is there a benefits system in Bulgaria?
Yeah, there is, but it’s very small money. My mum is 86 and she gets a pension of about £210 per month. That’s a good pension because she was a teacher for the state. A private pension is only about £100 a month. That’s nothing. So now I only visit Bulgaria for a holiday. The UK is my home. I love it here because if you have a job and you are careful with your money, you can live normally. You can get a car. You can do anything.

What are your hopes for the future?
The new season at the caravan park starts in March. I hope that I can go back but I haven’t heard anything yet. Who knows why? Maybe because I am 56 now and there are younger people who might get the work. I don’t know. 

Do you like selling the magazine?
Oh yes! Every day I meet new people and I am smiling. I know that some people do not believe me when I tell them I am homeless because I am clean-shaven and I use aftershave so I smell very nice. But you know, I have not been homeless my whole life. I like to have clean clothes, clean shoes. And I like to smile.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you very much for the help and thank you very much for the attention!

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