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Oprea Ruducan, 48, Waitrose, Nailsea, near Bristol

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Every week in The Big Issue magazine, a Big Issue vendor tells their story in our My Pitch column. This week 48-year old Oprea Ruducan, who sells the magazine at Nailsea in Bristol, explains his journey into homelessness and how he has persevered with the Big Issue as he gathers regular customers with his positive energy. 

Becoming a Big Issue vendor gives you the opportunity to sell the world’s best-known street paper in order to earn some cash. I have sold it here in the South West since 2014.

I am originally from Romania. I decided that I wanted to see the world and that’s why I travelled, but when I arrived in the UK my heart told me that I had found my home here. I always felt good here, and noticed people are more sociable, more educated, more Christian. You felt appreciated, no matter where you came from. I found a job on a construction site but I had an accident and couldn’t work any more. These days I have reduced mobility.

I couldn’t keep up with the rent and ended up rough sleeping. I slept on the streets, relying on support services. I used to go to a day centre every day where I could take a shower and get a hot meal. I was rough sleeping for a month and then lived for one year in a caravan. I did feel a bit hopeless back then but I didn’t have any regrets about coming here because I knew the situation was much more difficult in my home country. I knew that one day I’d have a better future. My faith has given me the strength to continue.

They say that I always smile and that I have a positive energy. It made me feel good to know that this is how people saw me

I came to The Big Issue but being a vendor is not easy, you have to be patient. It takes you a while to start making a regular profit. Like any business, it won’t happen overnight. Some days you will not sell anything, no one will buy a magazine. You have to be patient and stay positive. No matter what, you have to be on your pitch every day. People get used to seeing you, they start remembering you and eventually they buy a magazine. I also sometimes asked people why they bought the magazine. They would say that I always smile and that I have a positive energy. It made me feel good to know that this is how people saw me.

I’m not rough sleeping any more, I rent a small flat. It was a good decision and it made me feel like I can help other people who are in my situation. And I know the feeling of being homeless. It made me feel like I had another responsibility to save more to pay rent. In the future I’d like to go back into employment, starting with a part-time job and see what happens from there.

I’d like find a driving instructor  and get my driving licence. The Big Issue has helped me to always find the right information when I need it.

There was a lady who worked previously in the Big Issue office who was a big help for me back in 2014. I’ve also learnt and developed my English skills selling the magazine, just by being outside on the pitch and conversing with people.

I feel like a free man here and I always felt good. I’ve noticed people in the UK do not hold any prejudices against disabled people and you’re given a chance.

Oprea was speaking to Paula Gombos and Sarah Reid

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Big Issue vendors can’t work from home and with severe weather warnings on the cards, they face a very tough and uncertain Winter period ahead.

Waitrose & Partners Nailsea, High Street, Nailsea, Bristol, UK