Big Issue

Big Issue vendor Kevin gives us his point of view

Kevin My name’s Kevin. I’ve been selling the mags for nearly six years in Sheffield now, and basically that’s my role. I just flog the magazines – well, try and sell the magazines to as many people as I can. This is full-time work for me. I don’t get any help in other ways. I sell the mags seven days a week.

The Council has to cut its budget by over £50m by next year, taking total cuts to £238 million. How do you think that will affect the city?

Kevin People are complaining now about the amount of cuts, so any more money they cut is going to make the situation even worse. What’s going to happen? The public or going to... well, they need to rise up against it, and do something, but the people who are in charge will always be in charge. Money goes to money. And the money they’re cutting – where’s it going? What are they going to do with that £50 million? Who gets that?

Life expectancy falls by up to ten years between south and north Sheffield.

Kevin Well, that’s council cuts for you. That’s only going to get worse, especially around the areas near the centre – Burngreave, Firth Park and that. Especially Burngreave, up round Pitsmoor. It’s a bad enough area, but the kids up there... There’s a lot of drugs up there, but they’re only selling drugs up there to make money to feed themselves. I know a couple of kids personally that sell drugs up there, and they’re feeding their families. And they shouldn’t have to do that, and it’s all down to cut backs.

The other one is the bedroom tax. All these areas, they’ve all got 2 and 3 bedrooms. They’re all going to have to pay bedroom tax, and a lot of them are going to be either on part-time work or unemployed, so how can they pay things like that when the money’s getting cut left, right and centre?

Almost one in five households in Sheffield is living in fuel poverty.

Kevin I’d say that statistic’s a bit wrong. I’d say it’s more than that. I seriously think it’s more than that.

Why do you think it’s more?

Kevin Because I’m doing the same myself. I haven’t had gas on in my house for over a year, because basically I just can’t afford it. If I want to heat my house if it gets cold, I’m running... I’ll pay for those little electric fan heaters. I’ll run two of them. They sup electric like no end, but I can’t afford the gas, so that’s how I’ve got to do it. And I know about a dozen people that are doing the same. They don’t buy gas. They just put extra money on to the electric meter.

Almost half of privately rented houses in Sheffield aren’t considered a decent standard by the government.

Kevin Oh, that’s true. I definitely agree with that one. I’ve seen the state of some of the bed and breakfasts that the Council used to use. I’ve been in some right dives – bed and breakfasts that the Council have put me in when I was homeless. One of them I was in, I actually left the place cleaner than when I went in. It shouldn’t be like that. I shouldn’t have to do that, whether I’m homeless or not. Moving into a place... I mean, there were cockroaches and I found two dead mice under my bed. I had to clean that up. I shouldn’t have to go to somewhere the Council says it’s safe for me to be in and put up with that. If that’s what I’ve got, what are other people putting up with? And they’re not saying anything about it. But I was just thankful it was a roof.

There’s been a big rise in the number of food banks in the city in recent years.

Kevin A couple of shops within the city centre that employed quite a lot of people, they’ve all gone, so the more people become unemployed, the more they struggle. If you’ve got a family and you’re on benefits, that just doesn’t cover it. Nobody can properly survive off benefits.

Whose responsibility is it to solve these problems?

Kevin The government and the councils now all need to listen to us, the people who are actually on the streets.

What is fairness?

Kevin I don’t know. Does fairness actually exist in this country? Everybody should have the equal opportunity to get a job. We’ve all got the right to work and look after our families. The government need to get up off their arses and give us that opportunity. Everybody can do something. Give us a chance. Give people a chance to do what they want to do. We should all have roofs above our heads. Nobody should be homeless in this day and age, or out of work. There’s plenty of jobs there. And I like doing this.

Give people a chance to do what they want to do. We should all have roofs above our heads. Nobody should be homeless in this day and age, or out of work.

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