Dave Martin, Big Issue Vendor

“When I first started selling The Big Issue I was sleeping in a skip right next to my pitch at Victoria Station. When I woke up I’d say ‘time to pop into the office’ and hop out with a handful of magazines.

I first became homeless back in the 1980s. My mother had died when I was five, and after being shunted around between family members, care homes and foster parents I ran away.

I spent a while living in hostels in Derbyshire, which was okay, but you get a lot of bullying in those places. A lot of the residents have psychological problems and have just been released from mental hospitals.

I ended up in London, which was difficult. There are so many people, but it can be a very lonely place because they don’t have much time for you. Street life just became the norm for me. It’s a different world and it just becomes part of what you do.

I’ve never had a problem with alcohol or drugs, so being homeless was definitely a choice, which I know might sound strange. I had freedom and I was beholden to no one, but then again I’ve got nothing to show for myself.

Eventually I got to know some Big Issue vendors and decided to give it a go. The hardest thing about it was getting out and talking to people, but slowly I became more confident. Wearing the Big Issue uniform helped because it meant that people would come and start conversations with me.

Things really started to change when I found this pitch in Hammersmith. People are very friendly. I’ve got loads of regular customers and have got to know some of them quite well. They always stop and ask me questions, which has been a real confidence boost.

Over the years I’ve become so much more open and talkative, but I wasn’t always this way. Now I like to chat.” (interview by Sam Judah)


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