Destinations

UK town turns homeless into tour guides to solve social problem

Apr 11, 2013 8:16 am

Skift Take

A fantastic example of wielding tourism as the economic power tool it is. Even if the project fails, it’s a start to the type of ideas that should be executed worldwide.

— Samantha Shankman

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Andy Welsher  / Flickr

This street dog lives among the homeless in Bath. Andy Welsher / Flickr


New walking tours promising a secret glimpse of Bath were launched this week, all of which are led by people who are, or have been, homeless.

The walks will show visitors all the city’s main tourist attractions – which include the Roman Baths, its Georgian architecture and numerous sites with Jane Austen associations – but will also give an insight into the city’s homeless problem.

The man behind the initiative is Dr Luke Tregidgo, a former PhD student at the University of Bath.

“We’ve got a city that people love to walk around,” Dr Tregidgo told the BBC.

“We’ve got year-round tourism and some fantastic sites, but also a massive problem with homelessness, so why not leverage the city’s greatest asset – its tourists – to solve one of its biggest social problems?”

“Most people come to Bath to see the famous sites, the Crescent, the Roman Baths, the Abbey, so we show them those, but we will also show them hidden places that you wouldn’t find on any other tour, and then also a bit about what it is like experiencing being homeless.”

The Secret City Tours website promises “the most entertaining guided walking tours of Bath, combining the city’s most popular destinations with hidden gems and undiscovered stories that you won’t find anywhere else.”

According to the Bath Chronicle, the Big Issue was involved in recruiting guides for the tour, while the Natural Theatre Company helped train them.

Alex Kirzsan was the first guide to lead a tour, earlier this week. The 46 year-old, who has previously spent three years on the streets and now lives in a hostel, said: “I bit their hand off when this opportunity came… I want it to be a success.

“I want to make something of myself, which is impossible when you live in a doorway.”

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