A formerly homeless man has spoken out about how becoming a York tour guide – showcasing the story behind the city’s buildings – has given him his life back.
Miles Goring, who had a 20 year career in banking before falling into rough sleeping and spending 14 months living in a homeless hostel, was speaking at a York Festival of Ideas event.
He has started working with Invisible Cities – a social enterprise that trains people who have experienced homelessness to create walking tours of their own cities.
Dad-of-two Miles has lived in York for more than 30 years and had a successful career but said: “My addiction to alcohol took more control over me, which resulted in me losing my house, losing my family and my job opportunities whilst I was dealing with that addiction.”
After spending more than a year in a hostel, he is now in recovery and joined Invisible Cities – which partners with the Good Organisation in York – in March 2019.
A chance to rebuild myself
His tour focuses on the history of health and wealth in the city – and his own experiences give him a unique insight.
He said: “It was an opportunity to rebuild myself. It’s been a fantastic journey alongside my recovery.
“The biggest barrier initially was what am I going to talk about?
“Typically it’s buildings that we walk past every day, but we don’t take a step back and look at the beauty of what we have got in York.
“There’s an undercurrent – there are residents who are finding things difficult. We do have poverty here in York, we do have people who are struggling to make ends meet. We know there are people who are sofa surfing.
“I can really resonate with how difficult that is.
“I still get that tag of ‘there’s the homeless alcoholic’.
“We all walk past a rough sleeper like we all walk past these buildings – we don’t take a moment to stand back and take a look. There’s an individual there – it could be your bank manager, someone you used to work with, someone you went to school with.”
‘Laughter and fun’
Founder of Invisible Cities, Zakia Moulaoui, said the tours are currently paused – and fortunately all guides are in temporary accommodation during the pandemic.
She said: “It’s been quite a brutal and difficult time, none of our tours are running but we are hoping we can start again at some point in July with social distancing and other measures in place.
“There’s a lot of chat around the impact of tourism, especially the negative impact. I think a lot of people choose us as an option because they know that they are giving back to the community.
“We are a really good option with five star reviews, and we take pride in that.”
Miles said the crisis has helped him see how resilient people in recovery are, adding: “The tour helped me regain my confidence and it’s given me a purpose and my life back. For that I will be forever grateful.
“I needed to get my dignity back. This gave me that chance. It’s having someone to believe in you when you really don’t believe in yourself. And that’s what Zakia and Invisible Cities gave me.
“It has been a lot of laughter and fun.
“The best part of my tour is meeting the people that come on it.”
Visit a fundraising page set up to help the tour guides through the pandemic on this Just Giving page.