Our Vendors 

Homeless tours of Düsseldorf

Tue, Jan 13, 2015

StreetWise Magazine is proud to provide content republished by the International Network of Street Papers’ independent Street News Service. This service features stories submitted by 100+ street papers around the world in an effort to raise awareness for homelessness and bring a voice to the underserved.

INSP International Vendor Profile
by Marc Dauenhauer. Photo by Christof Wolfffiftyfifty_4_5_stra_enleben_cw_stadtrundgang_14

“My name is Markus. I’ve been living rough for 4 1/2 years. I sleep under a bridge.” With these words I begin my guided tours, which I have been running for a year on behalf of fiftyfifty and the cultural center zakk. I ended up on the streets because my flat was too expensive for me, and then I lost my job. When I first became homeless, I just hit the road and ended up here in Düsseldorf. I found some good mates here who I still meet up with in the evenings for a beer and to watch the football. It was these people who told me about the street magazine, and in 2011 I became a fiftyfifty vendor. Before that I just used to collect [the deposits off] bottles and live off what I could find in skips and bins.
At the beginning of 2013 I took part in making a cinema advertisement for fiftyfifty. In it, a social worker spoke to me about the project she was involved with: an alternative guided tour of the city called ‘Living on the Streets.’ When I first heard about it, I was a bit skeptical. Why would people be interested in the way homeless people live and get by? But I still wanted to give it a try, because I was interested in telling other people about my life. Also, it was important for me to get other people to see homeless people from a different perspective. People who took part in these guided tours would find out what they could do to help others, and what facilities exist in Düsseldorf. At the same time I started to think about what places I wanted to show people: day centers, emergency night shelters, hostels, places where homeless people used to sleep and places where you could buy fiftyfifty. But also the places for dealing drugs, and the red light district which, I’m afraid, are also part of Düsseldorf.
Of course, I was pretty nervous before my first guided tour: would people be able to hear what I was saying above the noise of the traffic? Would they ask questions I didn’t know the answers to? Would they ask me things which were too personal? So far, everyone has been able to hear me and no-one has asked me anything I couldn’t answer. I’ve not had any negative feedback up to now, either. On the contrary, my worries that nobody would be interested in an alternative guided tour were unfounded. At the moment I’m doing on average three tours a month, as are my colleagues.
What I really like is when I get letters from people who have been on the tours. I’ve been invited for coffee quite a few times after a tour. If I weren’t “Living on the Streets,” that kind of thing wouldn’t be happening to me. If it wasn’t for these tours I wouldn’t hardly get to speak to ‘normal’ people, apart from the regulars who buy fiftyfifty.”

People have really got a lot out of our two-hour tours. They’ve learned that homeless people aren’t all the same. There’s good and bad, like everyone else. And they’ve learned that every homeless person has to deal with their own fate. There are lots of reasons why people become homeless.
A participant in an alternative guided city tour reports:
This has nothing to do with picture postcards or tourist attractions. Quite the opposite. Two homeless former vendors of the street newspaper fiftyfifty lead you through a tour of their world and tell you about their life on the streets. This is no freak show, no waxworks display of human misery. It’s a confrontation with a living reality that is hidden from most people. Suddenly, Düsseldorf, the city of the rich and the beautiful, becomes a city of crass contrasts where grotesque poverty and social injustice exist as well.

Note: This photo shows fiftyfifty vendor Patrick, Markus didn’t want to be photographed.


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