Unseen Tours, a social enterprise, an opportunity for former homeless people.
I’ve been lucky to meet in the past weeks so many social enterprises that I can not explain the motivation and inspiration received in so little time.
Since I can not talk about all of them, I choose one that aims to help, just as The Big Issue, former homless people: Unseen Tours.
Unseen Tours is like any other guided tour to specific areas in a city, but with the peculiar case that the guide is a former homless. So, you will learn from the place you are visiting and at the same time you will be learning personal experiences of your guide. The tour is designed by the guides and it is in areas where they live or hang around… beleive me, it is full of details and stories.
I recently made one tour to Camden Town with Mike O’Hara who have been frequent in the area since he was young. Then, the tour is full of his memories like a hidden concert of Amy Winehouse, stories about The Smiths and the 80’s subculture in the area. Also, he knows some interesting details like ‘who lives where’, etc. The most fullfilling part -at least for me it was- is that during the tour you are able to hear his story: why he had to be homeless, what he lived during this experience, and what is he doing now to move along.
Mike went homless since he lost his job during the 2008 crisis, but now he lives in a building run by a charity and have the opportunity to work in Unseen Tours which at least allows him to have some money and gather every now and then with his friends. Actually, although it can be just said as simply as that, this is a very important detail. Mike explained that one of the most terrible things of being homeless was not able to socialise which really got him into a depression and affected him so much. Now, being able to have this reunions helps him a lot to continue moving forward.
By now you might be asking how does Unseen Tours works. Well, the tours are £10 and 60% of the whole profits are gained by the guide. The rest of it is invested into the company to pay guide phone and transportation of guides, other operational costs, and to engage more guides and tours.
So, to conclude, from Unseen Tours we can learn this three points:
- The important match of quality and social objective. Yes, of course, it is nice to help. But the product worths it, too. The tour was excellent. I learnt a lot of the place and enjoyed the details in every story shared by the guide. One of the best tour guides I ever been in London.
- The importance of social capital. We can discuss later what social capital is. For now,we will leave it in this two ways. First, Unseen Tours is able to work because of its network with former homless or vulnerable people in the topic. It is the way they help and apporach, and how they engage them that makes the whole project to work. Second, Mike’s personal story about going out with his friends as an upgrade in his life. “We don’t believe in the limitations of labels and negative stereotypes”, says Unseen Tours website, we should not either. Then, there is an enourmos relevance of including in the projects the human aspect and the socialisation of the self.
- What is a social enterprise? Although there are many discussions about the subject and the definition will vary depending on authors and contexts, Unseen Tours have to features mostly repeated in all social enterprises: the social purpose and a wisely reinvest or use of the profits.
Read you soon.