HOMELESS people are to be trained to give guided tours of East Oxford.

Students from Oxford University’s social enterprise society Enactus have teamed up with the council- run East Oxford area forum to run tours of the area conducted by people who have slept on the streets.

The scheme, similar to London’s “unseen tours” network, is the brainchild of 20-year-old Hertford College physics student Okto Viano-Gandhi.

Mr Viano-Gandhi said: “We had the idea about it and then we looked into it and saw there was something similar happening in London, so we got in touch with them.

“They are going to come up and observe the tour and give them tips on how to present themselves and how to be engaging.

“There are just the two homeless people involved so far, but we are hoping that more people will want to take part.”

Former and current homeless people will be trained by organisers of the London unseen tours, and funding for the project has been provided by local councillors.

Unemployed Anthony Ralph, 49, spent three months at the O’Hanlon House shelter in Luther Street four years ago. Now housed, he was one of the first to sign up to the scheme.

He said: “I know some interesting things about the area, I have lived mainly here and was born not far away at the Churchill Hospital in Headington.

“I want others to find out what a bohemian road Cowley Road is and about East Oxford in general.

“And I know about both ends of the scale in Oxford.

“I ran out of money and ended up in the shelter. It wasn’t drugs and it wasn’t alcohol. I just lost my job and ran out of money.

“I was really lucky I was in Oxford at the time. I would have been far worse elsewhere. But it wasn’t nice so I worked my way out of it.

“I’m really looking forward to starting the tours. There is an awful lot of research to do because East Oxford has so much history, and we should have a dry run before we start the actual tours.”

The £800 cost of the training and uniforms for the new tour guides was covered from the allowances of councillors Craig Simmons (Green), Elise Benjamin (Green) and Bev Clack (Labour).

Mr Simmons, a councillor for St Mary’s ward, said: “The idea of having tours came up at the forum, and I started looking around for someone to run them.

“Okto’s project came into my radar, and by introducing him to other people who were interested and encouraging him to get it together and get a funding application in, we were able to sort it.

“It’s a really great scheme, and I’m really glad we’re able to fund something with a relatively small amount of money which will hopefully help people to get off the streets.”

The training will take place in early April, and tours will start soon after that, and will cost about £5.