At SHADES TOURS you learn first-hand what it means to live a life without home, about reasons into and ways out of homelessness and about Viennese institutions, that support people in difficult housing or life situations.
Dealing with homelessness
It causes a lump in my throat passing a homeless person. Most people pretend not to see and look somewhere else while walking by. Rarely someone stops and nearly nobody talks to a homeless. But are we really that careless? Isn’t the mind chattering: „Shall I give a Euro? If EVERYBODY would do that, yes! But just me? That doesn’t change anything. And – would I give a Euro to everyone who is begging at me, I’d be broke by myself too. Would he even speak the same language? What if I start talking to him and he starts following me? What if she’s crazy in her head? I don’t have time now…“
Be honest, at least once you had a thought like this, hadn’t you?
SHADES TOURS provides new perspectives on homelessness and helps overcoming contact fears.
Stepping into the shadows
In a shady courtyard our tour guide Barbara welcomed us. The group of fifteen international guests and Viennese was stunned by her elegant appearance and eloquence. Nobody would ever have guessed, that this woman not long ago was affected by homelessness.
She straightly got to the core of the matter: More than half of Austria’s 16.000 declared homeless people live in Vienna, around 1.200 live on the streets permanently. By the way, “Ask anything you like, there is no taboo on the topic, we can speak frankly“, she added. Immediately the first question arose: „How come, that YOU became homeless?“ On our first stop we should get the answer.
We followed Barbara passing a few alleyways to a quiet terrace where no tourist would stray. Only a handful of citizens used the passage while we stood in a half-circle and squeezed our brains to collect reasons for homelessness: „Drugs … unemployment, … divorce.“, we gathered.
Addiction to drugs, alcohol, compulsive gambling or video gaming can lead into homelessness but it’s even more common to become homeless because of losing work, separating from a (violent) partner or becoming ill – like in Barbaras case. Being self-employed she had to pay much of the therapy costs and treatments by herself. With no familiy to support her financially her situation became more and more precarious and her friends at the same time fewer. She lost the flat she had rented and her belongings. A suitcase was the only thing left. „At the beginning you tow a lot with you, but you learn to let go. There is no save place to leave your things and in the emergency overnight accomodation you can’t bring much.“
We passed a street with restaurants and cafés on each side and stopped outside the Franziskaner church, where daily snacks and every Friday soup is served for people in need. It’s one of numerous facilities like the „Gruft“, the „Canisi bus“ or the „P7“, where homeless get food, have a save surrounding and can warm up on cold winter days.
“I had to be extremely well organised, when I was homeless.” Barbara, SHADES TOURS guide
Public authorities offer shelter and medical advice and street workers provide information about who is allowed to stay in an emergency accommodation, where to register, where to get food and where to wash the clothes. Yet the struggle for survival asks for good organising qualities.
Homelessness is often invisible
Not every homeless person smells like a beer barrel and wears torn clothes. It might be that a homeless person sits next to you in a café or bus and you don’t even recognise it. „I often spent hours in a café with one cup of tea.“, Barbara told us . The worst thing was to fill out the endlessly long days trying to control the mind. “Life becomes rough when you don’t know where to get food and where to sleep save.”
Ways out of the shadows
We stopped at the Ginzkeyhof, one of many municipal tenements in Vienna, where we received information on possibilities for homeless to get back to a permanent accomodation.
After several years, Barbara is now healthy again. She rented a flat and when she is off from working as a tour guide at SHADES TOURS she loves decorating her place, making it comfortable. Barbara managed to leave the shadows of her life behind
Homelessness takes many forms, just as the choices to react
At last we stopped under a small pavilion in the “Stadtpark”. Here we heard about the laws on camping (sleeping on a park bench with sleeping bag or camping mat is not allowed) and about reasons for police action against the homeless.
What can I personally do, when I come across a homeless person?, you might want to know. Barbara’s advice: „Talk to him or her. Try to get in contact, ask them about their situation and don’t take it personal, if you get a strange answer.“ Some of them would be happy, to talk to you, some have turned their back on society.
The change maker behind the scene
Her name is Perrine Schober and her aim was to combine her knowledge in tourism with her passion for the social. When she got to know the concept of „tours lead by homeless“ which had already existed in Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Prag she new that she wanted to bring it to Vienna with the ambitious goal to reduce poverty and overcome prejudices against homeless people.
Perrine graduated in Tourism Management and worked in development cooperation projects in Vietnam and East-Anatolia and for a consultancy in Belize and the Philippines. In 2015 she was nominated for the Social Busines Award for „ideas against poverty“ with her concept of the SHADES TOURS and successfully presented her project at the TV-Show 2min 2mill. Her promise:
„SHADES TOURS offers information, enlightenment and commitment – a memorable and enriching experience. No one leaves the tour the same way they got in.” Perrine Schober, founder of SHADES TOURS
„A human without purpose wanders aimlessly. SHADES TOURS brought back meaning to me and my life. (Robert – SHADES TOURS Guide)
Tour dates and registration: All tours
You took part at a tour? I would love to hear from your experiences! How do you personally deal with homelessness? Leave a comment and share your experiences!