A social initiative through the backstreets of Athens
Invisible tours is a social project run by the Greek street paper “Shedia”. It is a social tours program based in the capital of Greece, Athens, in which homeless people become tour guides in a very different kind of a city walk. This is a tour that does not take people to the Acropolis and the archaeological treasures of the city but leads them through the backstreets of central Athens. As is the case with other social tours organized by street papers all over the world (Hamburg, Basel, London, Munich etc), the tour introduces visitors to many important social and solidarity institutions of the Greek capital (soup kitchens, day centers, drug rehabilitation centers, homeless shelters etc). The guides provide information on the types of services offered by each institution as well as how they themselves have experienced or are still experiencing homelessness.
They share information on the changing face of homelessness and social exclusion, the challenges faced by the institutions that strive to cope with the demand for more social services as well as the profile of the people behind solidarity organizations that are at the forefront of the battle again poverty and social exclusion, as they try to safeguard individual and collective dignity. And this is the most striking element of “Invisible Tours”: the personal narrative; in other words, communicating one’s personal experience from life on the streets. All of the tour guides are “Shedia” street paper vendors.
The goal of these social tours is to energize the person who is leading the tour. The tours also aim at creating new ways for him/her to support himself/herself, providing new training and educational opportunities and moving a step closer to social (re)integration. From the visitor’s perspective, it is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with and to listen to a very personal, human story that for many will sound very familiar, too close to home. The visitor will also get an insight into the social challenges that the Greek society is faced with nowadays as well as with the great state social and grassroots solidarity movements fighting poverty and social exclusion. It is a lesson about life.