Simon Mott, age 48, South Kensington tube (museums exit)
I read on the council’s website that 11 million people use this road a year. Despite that number of people, I don’t see much crime. I’ve had this pitch for about eight weeks.
I volunteer for Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual charity, in Waterloo during the day, from 8am to 3pm. When people contact us asking for anti-homophobic resources, I send them out. Stonewall also pays my travel expenses so when I come to my pitch in the afternoon, my travel is effectively free.
Sometimes I can be at my pitch until 10pm at night. At five o’clock the first lot to come out are students and then there’s a steady stream of people heading to restaurants or going out for the evening.
When Regina Spektor was at the Albert Hall, there was a My Week interview with her in The Big Issue. I opened the magazines to display that page and people bought copies as a souvenir. I had a queue of people waiting to buy a Big Issue.
At the moment I’m sleeping rough or sitting on night buses. The night buses are safer. I don’t believe in Boris Johnson’s No Second Night Out campaign. I spoke to someone about the helpline – they told me you have to wait four days to be found. It’s 2012, there shouldn’t be any homeless. If you’re a single male with no problems such as addiction, there’s no help for you with housing. You’re almost forced to get a problem to get on to the system and get housed.
Before I became homeless, my other jobs included a travel card researcher and underground train driver. In 2000, I crashed a Piccadilly line train. There had been bad storms the night before and a few trees had fallen on the track where we couldn’t see them. There were no passengers on board because it was the first train of the day, but I cracked my hip.
I saw a poster in The Big Issue office about a House of St Barnabas training course for people who want to work in security, such as supervising in bars and clubs. Before that I hadn’t heard of the charity, but now I’ve done the training and I just need to get the licence.
My customers... I’d like to thank my regular customers: Michelle and all the staff and students from Imperial College, Angela from the Jamaican High Commission, Nick – a fine saxophonist from the Royal College of Music – and Helen from the Science Museum.
Interview by Sally Brammall
Photo: Tom Campbell