Pete, Brick Lane Tour Guide

A Very Interesting Question about Homelessness With Very Interesting Answers

Having been a tour guide with Unseen Tours for 7 years I get asked a lot of questions by my guests. Some of which are strange and some are poignant. 

When I meet my guests, I ask them to save their questions until the end for a reason that you will find later in this ditty. Some questions I’ve been asked numerous times. The other day I was asked a question that falls into both categories, both strange and poignant. The question flustered me because it was from so far out of the ballpark that I’d never even considered such a question. 

I was on a tour with a one-on-one guest at the time. We had a great tour as we conversed about all manner of things. Finally, at the end, he asked me the question…

What did I learn while I was homeless?

If you met me then you would know that I’m hardly ever without an answer to any question put to me, but this one stopped me in my tracks. 

On the few occasions when I’ve had to think hard about my reply, I’ve learnt to break questions down into parts and into tenses. 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 needed 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 detrimental habits, like hard 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, like street drinking.

Pete's Brick Lane School Group tour
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I then thought about a different way that initial question could be put forward… What did I learn (about life) while I was homeless? 

This supporting question is infinitely harder 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, I learned about different soup kitchens and skipping (going into supermarket waste bins and looking 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 until I went 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 differing reasons.

Pete headshot
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Moving up yet another notch, 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 become part of my favourite ever organisation, Unseen Tours, and start my favourite ever job! 

Many thanks to my guest last month for asking me such a mind-opening question! 

Remember that when you come on my tour, please save your questions to the end as I answer the vast majority of them along the way. 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.

Pete xxx