My Streets has provided unique guided tours since 2014 with fifty one souls participating on the programme to date.
My Streets was born when Alan Costello of Drogheda Civic Trust discovered a project being run in the town of Canterbury, England which enabled people experiencing homelessness to become tour guides of 'their' streets. Struck by the simple power of the idea, and the similarities between the two towns, Alan approached a receptive Drogheda Homeless Aid who assessed interest amongst current and resettled clients of the charity in the interesting new enterprise.
Once the troops were rounded up and trainers were identified, a ‘curriculum’ was decided upon and funding was sought. The My Streets programme benefited from early concept development funding from State Street in the summer of 2014 which allowed training to begin in September in the relative splendour of the historic Westcourt Hotel. Training initially consisted of one half day a month provided by volunteer trainers and focused on a mixture of confidence/presentation skills and historical training followed by a sumptuous lunch.
Louth Meath Education and Training Board soon provided a tutor which allowed the broadening and deepening of the education programme and the establishment of weekly training sessions from January 2015 onwards. Last but not least Malahide Lions Club added a kind €1,000 to the war chest on the heels of their successful My Streets tour which saw 91 Malahidians descend on the story rich streets of Drogheda.
A major step in the growth of My Streets was it’s establishment as an entity in it’s own right in February 2017. This allowed us to develop a very ambitious strategy and vision for the future. Shortly after this My Streeets formed a partnership with Extreme Ireland which attracted 7,000 customers in a twelve month period.
A town the size of Drogheda with a relatively small homeless population (in gross terms but relatively high per head of population!) posed limitations in terms of the level of social impact the programme could achieve. In 2018, My Streets CEO and co-founder Austin Campbell applied for and won a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Award which brought with it the confidence and support necessary to grow My Streets to a second location; Dublin.
Moving to a new location posed challenges; building trust with potential trainees, sourcing training space, sourcing trainers and building relationships with established housing and homeless organisations. The most remarkable, and one of the most rewarding parts of our journey to date, is the support we have consistently been shown by partners, the general public and the media. We are humbled every time our project is featured in the media and the positive public response gives us goosepimples caused by a combination of bashfulness and pride.
Fifty one people have engaged on My Streets training programmes to date. 11,000 customers have come on tour. We expect these numbers to increase exponentially as we strive to expand to additional locations over the coming months. Many thanks for being part of the wonderful journey. Onwards!