Gheorghe Dumitru, 53, Boots, Clevedon, Somerset

I first heard about The Big Issue in 2014 through my sister-in-law. I heard about how they were helping people like me to make their own income. Thanks to The Big Issue I have been able to provide food and a roof over my head.

I am from Tandarei, a small village in Romania, and it is very different from Bristol. There are so many more opportunities here, it’s like a whole other world. I miss Romania, but I believe I wouldn’t be alive if I were there. There are no opportunities. The people of Bristol and Clevedon, their hearts are so, so big. When you are in need they help; if you are hungry they feed you; if you need support they lend a hand.

When I started selling the magazine I was a bit scared, I didn’t know what to say to people or how to act around them, but now I feel really happy going to my pitch because I’ve made friends with lots of the locals and it makes me feel at home. I like the people where I sell, they even know my name and say “Hello Gheorghe” every morning. I am very thankful to them!

There were periods of time after we arrived here when my wife and I were unable to find a place to rent in Bristol and so we had to resort to living in a tent. It was really horrible because we couldn’t cook, we couldn’t shower and it was very cold. We often felt very scared, terrified
of the life we were leading. It just didn’t feel safe.

Now things have changed – the two of us live in a small rented flat in Bristol, 11 miles from my pitch. We feel safe and we can sleep without worrying about the threat of life on the streets. We feel calm as it’s lovely and quiet there.

The Big Issue has undoubtedly changed my life for the better and given my wife and I the opportunity to survive. Now we live in a home our life is very different. I can rest peacefully and keep myself clean. I have learned to speak a little English and I am currently accessing lessons with help from The Big Issue staff. I have also learned through The Big Issue that there are lots of good people in the world.

My hopes for the future are to stay in Bristol, because this is where I feel welcome.

Interview: Megan Clarke/ Raluca Mihai

Photo: Frankie Stone