Homelessness is an international scourge. The last time the United Nations did a global survey of homelessness was in 2005. They estimated that approximately 100 million people were homeless around the world while another 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing. Factor in that this survey was not globally participated in by every single human on the planet, so these numbers are likely higher and have only grown with our burgeoning world population. The people who aren’t counted as part of this data are called hidden homeless.
Addressing an issue of this magnitude has always been difficult. There are many who are passionately dedicated not only to helping people who are homeless but to combatting homelessness as a whole. Certainly, this is much easier said than done.
Ireland can attest to this as they’ve hit the highest homeless population in the country’s history crossing more than 10,000 homeless residents. In the face of the growing issue, Dublin is addressing it in a unique way. With Millennials projected to spend $1.4 trillion on travel each year by 2020, Dublin thought they’d take advantage of this wanderlust and curiosity to help and to educate.
A program called My Streets Ireland tackles social stigma against people who are homeless and provides training for homeless people to become paid guides for city tours. The program provides training in things like public speaking, performance, history, creative writing, and a slew of other valuable skills. The guides make 50% of the money from tour tickets and the remaining 50% is invested back into the program.
“The vision of ‘My Streets’ is to empower and support individuals who have experienced homelessness with accessible training and education options while humanizing the issue for the general in-home community,” reads the program’s website.
This is all coming at a time when Ireland is seeing an encouraging surge in tourism. On average, eight million people fly every day and, apparently, Ireland is becoming a hotter and hotter spot to get to. They saw this as an opportunity to help educate people about the city while also educating them about homelessness, erasing stigma and breaking stereotypes. My Streets Ireland has been in operation since 2014, but they’re hoping to see it grow even more as Dublin sees an increase in the homeless population and the tourist population.
“I once thought I was going to be living in a tent for the rest of my life, and now I’m being trained to be a professional tour guide. How amazing is that?” said 27-year-old Dooner.
Another woman reported that homelessness is extremely lonely and that people treat you as if you’ve done something wrong. This woman, in particular, was living in a caravan after being forced to leave her apartment. The ideal sleeping temperature is 65 degrees and her van had holes in the walls and it wasn’t uncommon for temperatures to dip below freezing. These are but a couple of stories of more than 10,000 seldom-heard, seldom-listened-to voices.
The tours in Dublin begin mid-March and stand to influence a change in lives, hearts, and minds.