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Homeless tours show visitors dark side of Prague | Reuters

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

55-year-old homeless Honza B. smokes a used cigarette butt as he escorts his tour group in Prague(Reuters) – With his gravelly voice, bushy hair, an old suitcase in one hand and a pinched cigarette butt in the other, Honza Badalec is not your typical tour guide.

On his walks through Prague, Badalec steers clear of the picturesque ancient castle. Nor does he stop on the centuries-old Charles Bridge, a bustling attraction for the average visitor.

Instead, the 55-year-old veers off the well-worn cobblestones and into the rougher edges of the Czech capital, a side of one of Europe‘s most visited cities that many would rather avoid.

“I didn’t choose to be homeless,” he said after completing an evening tour.

“But I’m trying to do the best I can. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat people, I don’t abuse welfare benefits. The tours are great. They are a chance for me to explain myself better.”

Since August, about 430 people have paid 200 crowns ($10.31) to visit the places where some of Prague’s homeless gather.

Half of the proceeds go to the guide and the rest to student-run agency Pragulic, set up after it won a 1,500-euro social entrepreneurship award.

SAFETY NET DISAPPEARING

Prague’s homeless population, estimated at around 4,500, has not changed significantly in the last three years despite two recessions in the Czech Republic during that period.

Yet a common sight for tourists arriving at the city’s main railway station is groups of homeless people sharing cartons of wine.

There are around 600,000 homeless people in Europe, with about a tenth living “rough” on the streets, according to estimates cited by the U.N. Human Settlements Programme.

via Homeless tours show visitors dark side of Prague | Reuters.

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