Ex-homeless become tourist guides in Utrecht

3rd September 2009, Comments 0 comments

Former homeless will give tourists an 'underground' view of Utrecht's city centre.

Utrecht - Five former Dutch street dwellers are soon to become official tour guides, showing visitors around their former haunts in the central city of Utrecht, organisers said on Wednesday.

The welfare organisation Altrecht is responsible for the project.

The group was chosen because they expressed an interest in the programme, said project leader Annemieke Dijk. Those selected were also dependable and could distance themselves from their former situation.

Having completed formal training through the tourism bureau, the group will take up their duties from 13 September, said Simone Lensink, an Altrecht spokeswoman.

"The idea is for people to rediscover the town and in particular those areas where their guides used to sleep or do drugs," she told AFP. "This is a small part of the history of Utrecht."

Utrecht has about 200 homeless people today, compared to up to 1,200 eight years ago when nine new homes were built for the destitute, she said.

"These are people with a unique background," she added. "They had to learn to be social and to be able to tell their story in an interesting and coherent manner."

The tour, titled Utrecht Underground, will take 75 minutes.

On the first day of the programme, Sunday, 13 September, tours are free for the public and will take place at 11:00, 13:00 and 15:00 from the tourist office at Domplein. After that it will be possible to make reservations for groups, and tours will cost EUR 5.

Currently the tours are only offered in Dutch.

AFP / Expatica

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