Sightseeing with the homeless

The amount of homeless people is increasing. Also in the Netherlands. As are the initiatives to have homeless people guide city tours. In Britain, Sweden, Barcelona, but also in our country, in Groningen for example, you can join a city tour showing you the unseen sight of a town.

Groningen – “Just a cup of coffee”, said a homeless man once  in answer to Ritzo ten Cate, inhabitant of the city of Groningen, when asked what his needs where. He needed to have a cup of coffee with someone of the other side, who wasn’t homeless, so he would feel human again.

Ritzo then started an initiative to persuade the people of his city to have a cup of coffee with a homeless person. He even wrote a manual how to go about it safely.  The manual was in great demand but it didn’t exactly lead to an increasing amount of people going for a coffee.

Sightseeing with the homeless

“Were they scared?”, Ritzo wonderd. So a new initiative followed. This time people could go as a group sightseeing with the homeless. Passing the places that marked their lives. It was the beginning of a successful city tour with homeless guides.

The walks, called Just a cup of coffee  are interesting and impressive. Not only do you see the city in a different way, homeless people are no longer the annoying nobodies, but humans with a story. Groningen has 1000 to 1500 homeless. Among them people staying illegally in Holland, youngsters, drug addicts and people with mental problems.


In Great Brittan there is a similar project called Unseen Londen which was initiated by Sockmob. this group of volunteers thought it would be interesting to give tours in London guided by homeless.

Homeless people look different at their city. Where do you stay warm in the winter, where can you hide? Where do you stand a chance of sleeping on a porch?

Secret city tours

In London you can do four different city walks with a professional homeless guide.

The city of has a similar project: Secret City tours. No tours among the famous Victorian houses on the crescents but the alley,s where homeless drink a beer, are the destination. They also teach you how to get money out of a parking meter.

Homeless accomodation

Sweden has a different offer: the homeless accomodation in Gothenburg. Not  meant for the homeless but for whoever wants to experience what it is like to be sleeping outside. For 10 euros you can sleep in a park or under a bridge.

Barcelona also offers tours in the barrio Gótico.

Tekst: Anneke de Bundel – Beeld: Nicole Franken

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