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Ideas on homelessness and expoitation

When I was biking through Colorado Springs, my alma mater city, I remembered an evening a few years ago where I attended a discussion where the “Homeless Tour” was the topic of the hour. I had previously thought that this tour was set up by the local homeless as a way to expose the realities of homelessness as well as a way to generate revenue from those that can pay.

What I unfortunately discovered, was that they local activist organization designed the tour themselves, visiting the shelters, the food banks, the spot under the bridge…and that the tour was given by these activists and the revenue went to the organization. I completely agree that this organization was innovative in creating an outlet for those that are not homeless to see what a “typical day” might look like for those that are, but doesn’t it seem a little exploitative? If the $ is not directly benefitting those that are being exposed, is that abusing any potential for new relationships?

When I was in New Orleans this past Spring, visiting the AVODAH house, I went over to Ward 9, to have my own eye-witness account of the destruction from Hurricane Katrina. While in the neighborhood that Brad Pitt has donated to, constructing houses that are “environmentally sound,” I saw a tour going through the neighborhood: The Swamp and Hurricane tour, or something of the sorts, where you see parts of the bayou swamp, and the destroyed neighborhoods. Who is running those tours? Young yuppies like me who saw a business opportunity and moved down to nurture the exponentially growing tourism industry. I am not sure as I have not done all my research, but it seems as if the $ revenue contributes to this industry rather than to the communities that still need rebuilding. Have they hired any locals to work for the company? I am not sure, but either way, there is plenty of room for exploitation in these parts as well.

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One Response

  1. Emma-

    I appreciated your comments on Tourism, and specifically poverty/disaster tourism.

    I work in the Lower 9th Ward and, yes, many of these bus tours are completely unaccountable to the community: Greyline, Cajun Swamp, etc. They don’t hire locals, the buses don’t stop and they don’t contribute anything to the local economy. In fact, in the case of Greyline they made a one time donation to the Lower 9th Ward, but they continue to advertise as if their charity is ongoing.

    However, there is a challenge in that we want people to come to Lower 9 and learn and see what happened (and then to act). What is needed is an accountable way to visit places. I think you have hit on the way to do that, which is that locals need to direct the tours, and that the money generated needs to go back into the community.

    I give a lot of tours of Lower 9th Ward as part of my job, but my tours stop and speak with locals (who receive money for sharing), and also our center uses money we receive from the tour to benefit our work in the community, but we are constantly in the process of re-evaluating our accountability to the community. Also, we are run by residents of the Lower 9th Ward.

    Enjoy this video on the subject, and keep up the great work!
    http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=32117554

    Sincerely,

    David Eber

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