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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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.

This is a serious emergency for our vendors, and they need your help. There are three things you can do right now to help them get through this impossibly tough period.

  1. Buy our digital issue of this week’s magazine Buy
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  3. Buy subscriptions and back issues online Shop Now