Steve*, Manchester city centre

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m in my fifties and I’m Manchester born and bred.

It’s good to know Big Issue North is there when I need it

What has the last year been like?
Life has been quiet. Like everything, it came to a standstill. But the last few months have been better because I’ve been volunteering at a food bank since January.  

How did you get involved with that?
I went for a virus test at FC United football ground and noticed there was a food bank there. I wanted to do some voluntary work so I left my number with them so that I could get involved. 

Why did you want to volunteer?
I was bored and it was there at the right time. It’s good because it gets me out of the flat. It’s lonely living on your own. It’s not natural, not to speak to anyone for weeks on end. 

Tell us a bit about FC United.
They are a community football club in Manchester, set up when Malcolm Glazer took over Manchester United. I used to be a United fan but I stopped going years ago because it just got too expensive. It got out of hand and I was tired of getting ripped off. Football just lost its soul, you know? It became so commercialised. As well as running a food bank at FC United, they have an allotment and they run other kinds of services as well, like things for blokes to help them talk about their problems and stuff. It’s a really important place. 

What do you do there?
I help by unloading the vans, pack up and put stuff in bags, keep an eye on stock, whatever they want doing. It’s really helped me. When you have got nothing to get up for, you tend to stay up all night watching the telly or reading the same old books. You’ve got no purpose in life if you have got nothing to get up for – you’re just wasting away. 

Is that one of the reasons you started selling Big Issue North – to have something to do?
A bit, but I also needed the money. I had a lot of problems with benefits and I got into debt as a result. I was only selling for a few months before things went into lockdown, but I’ve had some good help from the Big Issue North office in the last year. It’s been really good. 

Will you be selling the magazine this week?
I will probably, yes. But I’m hoping to get a proper job with a local builder soon so I will stop selling the magazine then. It’s good to know it’s there when I need it, though. If something goes wrong, I can always go back.

What jobs have you done in the past?
I’ve worked in various jobs in the building trade and also had my own contract cleaning company. I had a big contract, cleaning for this house building firm. But when they stopped building houses, I lost a lot of work and my life went downhill after that, when the work dried up. Then there were financial problems. 

How do you feel about the fact that so many people use food banks now?
When I was growing up in the 1970s I would never have thought that in 2021 people would be using food banks. They are very important now to a lot of people. And I think the use of them will only go up. There’s going to be a fallout from this pandemic – people losing their jobs and stuff. I think it will be bad. 

What are your hopes for this year?
To get myself sorted out financially and get a new, better place to live. I have a rented flat at the moment but it’s not a great place. I also hope to carry on volunteering at the food bank. It’s a great place that has helped me a lot and people should support them.

*Not his real name.

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