Natasha joined the team of Supertramps recently in Vienna. She and her colleague organize guided tours by homeless or former-homeless people. This is an incredible opportunity for visitors to discover the insight of Vienna from a different perspective, and for the guides it’s a mean to get back onto their feet and start a ‘’a new life’’.
To make sense in her job
Natasha used to have a classical corporate carreer. She worked in a big institute as a marketing and sales researcher. She always had this need to take part with social or environmental non-profit organizations during her spare time. She learned a lot and it inspired her a lot for the contribution to the society. But her job and those involvements were always two separate worlds.… She decided to start new studies in ‘Environment and Bio-Ressource Management’ at the BOKU University in Vienna.
« When my company closed down, it was really clear for me in which direction I had to look for, and start a new chapter of my life ». It’s really by chance that she found out the existence of Supertramps and it became an evidence for her that this job was for her. Since then, she takes care of marketing and sales, but also customer service, cooperation with other structures, administration… a very complete job that allows her « not only to work for a group of people, but to work with. »
Supertramps, a social empowerment
Supertramps was found in 2015 by Katharina Turnauer’s Foundation. The main activity of the association is to organize thematic tours in the city of Vienna with guides who are current homeless or former homeless.
The first mission of Supertramps, is the personnal empowerment of the guides. « The tours are more than an additionnal income for them, it’s taking them in the position of the ‘needy’ one, and pushing them up in the position of somebody who has to say something, who is listened, who is seen and who is an expert in their field. For many of them, it’s the first time after many years that they are actually valued. We want to emphazise their qualities, their personnalities, and their knowledges. » Supertramps is proud of being the stepping stone for some of the guides, who can come back into society, into a normal life. Therefore, the guides are able to be independant again and have their own self determination, they regain self-esteem and confidence.
The second mission of Supertramps is to deconstruct the preconception of homelessness, to fight against the common stereotypes that people have towards that group of people.
« Unfortunately, homelessness is often perceived as a personnal failure, whereas it can happen to anyone, at anytime of your life, and many time, quicker than you would imagine »
How do the tours come to life ? The tours are based on each guide’s personnal life story, because there is no standard tour about homelessness, there is not only one face of homelessness.
The construction of the tours begins with what the guide is willing to share and is compfortable with. This isn’t an easy task : talking in public, in front of strangers about your personnal life, moreover about your personnal descent to hell, is something not everyone can do. He/she will lead you into his/her personnal places that have a special meaning to them which can be parks, streets, banks, shopping malls, social organizations, charity associations… The Supertramps team is here to help them with the story-telling, the structure of the red-thread, but basically, the guide developps his/her own tour.
Ferdinand, ex army worker, ex homeless, today touristic guide ‘Vienna, my unexpected hope’
Ferdinand, 54 yo, made brilliant technical studies. He joined agerman army production company as a machine builder. In 2006 he had to take care of his father who became ill. He made several costly investments for him, but unfortunately he passed away. In the meantime, the company he worked for closed down. Not long after his whole brother’s familly died in a car crash. Ferdinand fell into depression and wasn’t able to pay his bills and rent. Therefore he’s been evicted of his roof, with nowhere to go.
« No one teaches you how to survive in the street ».
‘Thankfully’, the city of Vienna is doing many efforts to help homeless with basic needs regarding food, shelter, and medical services. In addition of that, private structures, social workers, or charity organizations provide a lot of support for homeless. « In Vienna, it’s impossible to freeze or to starve in the street ». But once the basic needs are ensured, what comes next ?
While helping the Samaritan organization (Social and health assistance), Ferdinand joined the Supertramps team in 2016 and became one of the renowned guides. Since then, he learned the english language to offer english tours, and his dream is to publish a book about one of his passion : aircraft.
Supertramps is one of the structures who are helping homelesses for what comes ‘after’ the street life. Having a new appartment, a new job, social relationships, these are also the basic needs of a human being. « Everyone can become homeless with a series of unfortunate events, and no-one prepares you to that ».
A new outlook of your neighborhood and your life.
Participants (students, local or tourists) usually leave the tours with a special emotion. Of course they see the city with completely new eyes, they discover new places in their own neigborhood, they understand the point of all those social organizations… but more of that, people gain a new perspective on their own lives and value more their lives and what they already have. It’s also a wake-up call to them to realize that « homelessness can happen to anyone ».
To know more about Supertramps : https://supertramps.at/