Ben, 26, has been selling the Big Issue outside the Westgate centre since 1998. He’s from Oxford and has lived here all his life.
 Selling the Big Issue has definitely helped me, but the reception I get from people is good and bad. They don’t really stop and chat. I know some of my customers are students. I’m not sure how I feel towards them. If they want to walk past and ignore me then fair enough. Each to their own. People say offensive things all the time so I’d rather they just walk past and keep themselves to themselves rather than say something.
I’ve no plans for the future at the moment. I’m trying to get in to Lake Street, which is sort of like a hostel. You stay there for twelve months and then you get a council flat. I’m not exactly sure how you get in but I’m trying to find out through the Salvation Army. I don’t know if there are any charities that help the homeless in Oxford. None have helped me. You see people raising money for the homeless but you never seem to be able to find anything that helps you.
I’ve applied for a few jobs but as soon as they found out I’m at the night shelter I was kicked out straight away. They said I’d be unreliable. I think it’s because they assume all homeless people are on drugs. If people want to think that I just let them get on with it. They can think what they like. Some of it’s true but not all of it. If you start worrying about things then you start worrying about everything, so I just tend to shrug it off.
If I could speak to Tony Blair I’d tell him I don’t think money’s being spent quickly enough. They’ve got the money there but they’re not making it work. It wouldn’t cost much for them to put up some new houses for people who are on the streets.
ARCHIVE: 3rd Week TT 2003