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Steve Newcombe, 65, Nottingham railway station

Nottingham vendor Steve Newcombe lost his job and his place to live due to the pandemic. The Big Issue helped him get back on his feet

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I was begging outside shops in Nottingham and one of The Big Issue guys came up to me and asked: “Why don’t you try selling the magazine?” I only started about four months ago after I was made homeless during the pandemic.

I’ve done painting and decorating and all sorts of bits and bobs over the years, but I had been working in door-to-door sales selling household items in Grimsby when Covid started. I’d only been in Grimsby for a year when my mate got me a flat, but I returned home to Nottingham after I lost that. So I decided to start doing something rather than sitting around doing nothing.

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I was glad I had The Big Issue there to fall back on when I needed it. I just decided to try it out and it has been up and down since then. When you’re at the train station you get a lot of people ignoring you and then there are times when I won’t get anybody ignoring me. But I do actually have customers come up to me because they like a chat, I do a hell of a lot of chatting.

Most people treat me well on my pitch, but I did have an incident when I was assaulted at the end of last year. The guy was drunk and fell asleep and lost his phone. He woke up and decided that I had stolen it because I was a Big Issue vendor. He started pushing me about and telling me that he was going to kill me if I didn’t give him his phone back. That went on for about 20 minutes until the police came and arrested him. I was OK afterwards, I was obviously a bit shaky for a few hours but I soon took it out of my mind. He got a few hours of community service and a fine and I got £100 compensation.

Recently I was able to move out of the hostel where I was staying for four or five months and into a shared house. It’s alright, I just need to buy a few bits and bobs like a microwave and a lamp and stuff like that now.

I was only actually homeless on the streets for about a week before then. I had no other way of getting accommodation, so I went on to the streets to try and get some help.

The street outreach team came around and got me into the hostel after about a week. My son is homeless too, and he was actually in the hostel with me as well but decided that he would rather be on the streets. He’s kept in contact with me though and took me out for a meal the other day after he got paid, so we’re keeping in contact.

I’m actually born and bred in Nottingham and away from my pitch I’m a Notts County fan. We were the oldest Football League team and we fell into non-league a few years ago but it’s looking like we’re going up this season, we’re winning almost every game.

The Big Issue is not always an easy sell, but I’ve managed to get a few regular customers. I can easily say I’ve got about 10, which is not bad in about four months. I’ve got one customer who was the first person to ever buy a magazine off me, and she has bought one off me every week since. She was the last person to buy one off me last year too. Her name is Fiona and she’s only about 30, she’s from Malaysia. She’s a lovely girl, so thanks a lot to her.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Nottingham Railway Station, Carrington Street, Nottingham, UK

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