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'Unseen Tours' Give Jobs To London's Homeless

Tour Guide

First Posted: 08/25/10 02:54 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:25 PM ET

Homeless people in London are now finding employment as tour guides, giving visitors a unique perspective on the city's streets and monuments.

The Guardian reports the program was the brainchild of volunteers of Sock Mob, a local group that brings clean socks, food supplies and friendship to London's homeless. Group organizers received a small grant from an organization that funds social entrepreneurship to launch Unseen Tours.

The point of the tours, says [Co-organizer Lidija] Mavra, is to, "present [homeless people] in a very different light so that people can see them as having something to offer. We tend to have this very doom and gloom version of homeless people". The tours are intended to give homeless people a little more "ownership" of their lives, she says.

After three months of training, four homeless guides now take groups of tourists on regular excursions throughout the city. The guides get to keep most of the cash fees the participants pay to take the tour, helping them to secure an income for food, and eventually, housing.

Sock Mob organizers believe they can use the program to create a model that can be duplicated in other cities.

[Tour guide Viv] Askeland also hopes that the people who attend the tours might "get a bit more understanding about what it's like to be on the streets."
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Filed by Erica Liepmann  |