Five people listening to an Unseen Tours guide, Pete on Brick Lane. Pete points upwards to a building as he explains its history to his guests.

Pete: What life taught me whilst being homeless…

Having been a tour guide with Unseen Tours for 8 years, I get asked a lot of questions by my tourists. Through the years I’ve been asked a lot of questions, but a while ago I was asked a question that did fluster me, because it was from so unexpected that I’d never even considered such a question. The question I was asked was

Unseen Tours Guide Pete shows visitors street art on Brick Lane

What did I learn while I was homeless?

On the few occasions when I’ve had to think hard about my reply, I’ve learnt to break questions down into parts, so I broke this one down as I have done in the past. I broke this down into 2 parts. Firstly, what did I learn about homelessness? Well, I replied, I learnt that to stay warm and dry when in the street I need a good sleeping bag, a sheltered place and food before I bed down for the night.

In other ways, I learned that I have to surround myself with people that I trust, which means staying away from people that have harmful habits, like drugs for example. After that I started to run out of things to add until I remembered that it is essential to know the law. By that I mean anti-trespass and breach of local laws, for example street drinking.

I then thought about a different way that initial question could be posed… What did I learn (about life) while I was homeless? This supporting question is very hard to answer and just as infinitely more important to apply to one’s life. To start at the basic level, I learned to be self-sufficient, I had to gather my own food from different sources, for example, different soup kitchens and skipping (going into supermarket waste bins in their back yards and look for perfectly edible food that had been discarded, i.e. a full box of eggs with only one of them broken). Moving up a notch, I found it important to trust my own judgement when it came to a number of things. I’d look at a sheltered spot for a few days to see if it’s safe to go there. Another was a trust issue I had with other homeless people, by that I mean, just as in “REAL-LIFE”, you can trust some people, but there are also people that are not worthy of your trust for different reasons.

Also, looking back to where and when I was homeless, I believe that the best thing that I ever did in those crazy times was to be taken on in my favourite ever job in my favourite ever organisation, Unseen Tours! I do relish answering questions, especially if I have experience in the field, so please ask anything you like when on my tour, even if it means asking me such a mind-opening question! Save the best questions, like the one above, for the pinnacle of my tour.

Thank you for reading and I hope I see you soon on my Brick Lane tour.