Birmingham’s New Street Station now has its second Big Issue vendor on the designated pitch inside the station! Eftenoiu Paun attended an interview with New Street’s manager, where we explained Paun’s dedication to work and the long hours he has worked since he started selling The Big Issue. He is thrilled to be selling in the station, in the city he now calls home.
We took him on the proviso he would attend our ESOL class, which he did for two years. He then decided that Birmingham’s streets would be “his school” and so continued his learning through talking to customers and making friends. He has lived in a squat, slept rough outside Birmingham museum and lived on a friend’s sofa since he arrived in the city. As of today he has been offered accommodation with a provider he was referred to over a year ago. This provider is offering a room specifically for people with no recourse to public funds and he has arrived at the top of their waiting list. He is going to look at the room and hopefully sign the paperwork, meaning he has secure accommodation for six months.
‘I’m lucky enough to have a special new pitch inside New Street station, arranged with Network Rail. It’s a great place to sell the magazine, with so many people coming and going. It must be one of the busiest places in the country, but there is still time to have nice little talks with some of my customers.
Birmingham is a great place, full of impressive buildings. I used to sell the magazine at the Paradise Forum, close to where the big new library was built. I’ve been back to go inside the library – it’s a very grand place. I like it a lot. I’ve always liked libraries, ever since I was a boy back in Romania.
I’m from a place in Romania called Craiova – a city in the south. I’ve been in the UK for over five years now. I wanted to come here to try to make a better life. When I first came here, to Birmingham, my situation was pretty bad. I struggled to find work. I had nowhere to stay. And I had nowhere to even wash. After about six months of trying to find jobs, I started to sell The Big Issue.
Things gradually began to improve. I earned some money and I began going to the English classes once a week at The Big Issue office. And I began to feel more at home here, more like I was part of the city.
For a long time, I was staying with a friend of mine – sleeping on his sofa. Before that I was sleeping outside. But just recently I was told I have a room in a shared accommodation place, organized by one of the housing associations. I am very happy about that. It will be a big change for me, to have a room of my own, but I hope I can adjust.’
Susannah, Service Broker Team Leader, Birmingham
We were really happy to offer the pitch at New Street to Paun, as he has really put the hours in since he started selling the Big Issue. From the moment he started over five years ago, he has worked from 6am-6pm, 7 days a week, in all of the weather Birmingham has thrown at him. At first he couldn’t quite believe that we were giving him the opportunity to sell indoors! I was very proud to take him to meet the Station Manager, who showed us around the station and where his pitch would be. On his first day, we met at New Street and were given the Big Issue flag which identifies him in the busy station. The flag was rolled up and in sections in a bag – Paun put it together in 30 seconds flat, and a minute later had his tabard on and was smiling and greeting potential customers walking past.
We struggled to communicate when he started with us, and were pleased to be able to offer our in-house English conversation class to him. This meant that his confidence grew, and his conversations with customers increased, which meant his customer base increased too! After attending our classes for a few years, he told us “the street is my school”, and continued his learning by talking to his customers. Since arriving in the UK, he has struggled with finding accommodation as he has no recourse to public funds and has lived in a squat, on the street, on a friend’s floor. Now through Big Issue contacts, he is in shared accommodation, provided by a housing association whose waiting list he was on for a year. It has been worth the wait, as he finally has a place to call his own, for a few months at least. His enthusiasm for life, positive outlook, determination and work ethic are inspiring. It is a pleasure to be able to reward these attributes with this selling opportunity, and we look forward to supporting him in the next chapter of his story.