THE LONDON HOMELESS
The music video below by British group “Dodgy” gives you a fair idea of how it is to be homeless in London.
“Only a Heartbeat” – 2012
This music video was shot at Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo Branch)
Homelessness in London, as is often the case in most big metropolitan cities around the world, is quite a big problem: 7,500 people sleep rough on the streets of London every year. You will find people from every walk of life and origin, and it often happens that their situation is not the result of drug or alcohol abuse. As a matter of fact, homelessness begins when something bad happens and you don’t have family or friends around to support you, as in the case of Mike, a former facility manager in the City, who lost his job after the bank crisis.
After losing his job, he moved abroad, hoping to ride out the recession as an English teacher, but when he came back, he still couldn’t find work. After months of sofa-surfing, he wound up homeless.
Or, as in the case of Pete who had to quit his job due to bullying, and consequently lost his benefits. Finding a job again without references turned out to be impossible.
It also happened with Viv and Henri who found themselves homeless after they both broke up with their respective partners.
However, there are fantastic projects in London that provide help to homeless people, allowing them to make a fresh start away from the streets. The Unseen Tours is one of these.
THE UNSEEN TOURS
Next time you are in London, do yourself a favour and visit it from a different perspective. You may be amazed that one of the most successful and top-rated Tripadvisor tours is run by a non-profit organization whose engaging guides will entertain you, giving you a view of London like you’ve never seen it before.
Pete, Mike, Viv, Henry, and David will show London’s historical and cultural quirks in an unusual and entertaining way where issues of homelessness are covered.
The Unseen Tours doesn’t organize tours of the homeless butm rather, tours with the homeless, and covers the areas of Brick Lane, Camden, Covent Garden, London Bridge, and Shoreditch.
Shoreditch with Henri
Henri is an outstanding guide providing an excellent mix of local information, facts about artists, and the art in the area, all presented in his entertaining personal style. Other tours can show you the “sights”, but this tour with Henri is so much better at gaining an insight into the lives of people living in Shoreditch, whether they are artists or homeless. Wanna know where Damian Hirst squatted? Wanna know how Banksy’s graffiti became a national treasure? Pack lightly, bring a camera andwater, and wear good walking shoes.
Camden with Mike
Mike is a unique human being; a person whose story has a lot to teach us not only about London and its social inequalities, but about life itself. Mike is a fount of local knowledge who will show you the contrasts between the various eras in Camden’s history, and will give you a real flavour of how life is in Camden today. The tour includes a stroll along the Canal, and info on the areas industrial heritage. The tour is a high quality experience, and getting to know Mike is a bonus. You will hear stories spanning from The Clash squatting and being arrested in Camden to Hollywood stars and supermodels hanging out in the local pub.
Brick Lane with Pete
Pete does a great job of sharing the social and political history of the area, which he obviously knows and loves. He also knows the people very well, which adds to the personal tone of his tour. In addition to the rich details that he shares, which include information on history, persons, buildings, and street art, Pete manages to create a warm atmosphere within the group.
Covent Garden with Viv
Viv is warm and knowledgeable with an excellent eye for detail, and provides in-depth historical insight into the area; she points out things that you wouldn’t usually notice. Viv helps you see a side of the city with a totally unique perspective. If you want to know more about Covent Garden, take this tour with Viv.
This vibrant and multicultural area has come a long way, and it even has its own currency, the Brixton Pound or B£. This area is highly recommended for anyone that wants to do something different; something with a different angle and perspective, someone who wants to learn more than just the ordinary facts – AND, at the same time, support a great cause.
London Bridge with David
David will guide you through the world’s greatest food market, Southwark Cathedral, the infamous Clink prison, and a secret archaeological dig. You will follow the artery of the Thames along the South Bank, veering off into Borough’s more mysterious alleys that also contain powerful symbols concerning the outcast and social justice.
Visit The Unseen Tour’s Website for bookings.
VOLUNTEERING FOR THE HOMELESS IN LONDON
Regardless of whether you’ve been living in London for ages or you’ve just arrived, you may find volunteering a rewarding experience, as well as a way to make new friends with genuine, helpful people. Moreover, you’ll experience a different perspective, which is quite an eye-opener.
The shelter always needs new helpers, particularly for shifts in the evening (7pm – 11pm), and overnight (9pm – 6:30am).
You may want to volunteer at one of the many homeless shelters operated by Charity Crisis. Duties range from making coffee, playing board games, manning reception, and organizing karaoke, to keeping watch in the sleeping rooms – being homeless means it isn’t safe to sleep at night as bullying is a problem.
There are volunteer opportunities for a couple of hours a week, which include sitting on reception, assisting in the kitchen, or providing haircuts.
You can offer your help in handing out food, drinks, sleeping bags, and clothes.
On the first and third Friday night of each month, volunteers gather at Christchurch Gardens to provide food, clothing, and company to the homeless.
Volunteering at Hackney Winter Night Shelter means preparing breakfast and welcoming guests in the evening.
Featured image copyright: johnjodeery