Homeless As Tour Guides
It's a well-known fact that tourists typically get a very different view of a city than locals do, but it's a pretty safe bet that participants in Sock Mob Events tours get an even more different view than most. That's because Sock Mob's Unseen Tours of London are led by none other than homeless residents of the city streets themselves.
Inspired by London's Sock Mob, which is a volunteer group that engages routinely with London's homeless, Unseen Tours offer an entertaining and poignant walk through the streets of London with trained homeless guides, giving participants a historical but also unexplored perspective. The tours interweave the guides' own stories and experiences, giving participants a view of the city through the lens of homelessness while introducing a new social consciousness into commercial walking tours. Four routes are currently available — more are coming soon, the group says — each culminating in a “merry pub trip” at the end. Pricing is GBP 5 or GBP 8 per walk, depending on what the participant can afford, and two free places per tour are always set aside for people who are unable to pay and/or are accompanying someone as a care-giver. Launched on World Homeless Day — 10 Oct. 2010 — Unseen Tours happen at 7pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine.
In offering its Unseen Tours, Sock Mob aims not only to provide tour participants with a different view of the city, but also to empower the homeless and restore their confidence. The “lion's share” of the tour's proceeds goes to the guides, the group says, with any profit getting reinvested directly back into the enterprise to engage more guides and widen the scope of the offered tours. Ultimately, the group hopes to turn over the reins of the enterprise to one of the homeless guides themselves, and to spread the concept to other cities.
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