Tours provide unseen aspects of city, address misconceptions of homelessness
A recent survey suggests there are more than 4,000 people in Melbourne who are physically homeless. And as if life on the streets wasn’t tough enough, community misconceptions about homelessness often create obstacles to help. Specifically, many believe the problem is simply a matter of shelter. The greater reality is most homeless individuals are not just lacking a permanent address but a host of social and economic resources as well. Beyond housing, Melbourne needed to correct misunderstandings and de-stigmatize these individuals to truly make a difference for these vulnerable members of their city.
The Enactus team at the University of Melbourne aimed to enable homelessness individuals by providing them with an opportunity to generate income and engage with the broader community. The way they sought to accomplish this was through an enterprise where homeless individuals conduct walking tours of Melbourne. The tours would offer customers a chance to discover unseen aspects of the city as well as a unique insight into the daily experience of a homeless person in that area.
The team worked with the Council to Homeless Persons to identify individuals willing to conduct tours. The project was piloted at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, one of the largest liberal arts festivals in the city. The group ran 10 tours with three tour guides. The project was the first ever event in the festival’s history to sell out before the festival even began. In one activity, the community gains insights into the larger issues surrounding homelessness and the guides gain the resources they need to leave their lives of unrest on the streets.
The “Street Stories” project has not only increased awareness about homelessness among the more than 100 people who have participated in the tours, it has also helped three formerly homeless individuals gain valuable skills as well as needed income. For these men, the cycle homelessness has been broken. Thanks to the effort, they have each gained th skills and confidence to integrate back into their local society, obtain full-time employment and have permanent addresses.