Q&A with Lauren, a former student volunteer and Manchester alumnus who now works to fight homelessness with Invisible Manchester.
What is Invisible Manchester?
Invisible (Manchester), part of Invisible Cities, is a social enterprise that trains those affected by homelessness to become walking tour guides of the city centre. Our walking tours are unique as they allow you to experience Manchester from the perspective of someone who has lived on the streets. As a social enterprise, 100% of our profits go back into training our guides and creating social impact projects to support the wider homelessness community.
What difference does Invisible Manchester make?
Here at Invisible (Manchester) our mission is two-fold. Firstly, we equip our guides and guides-in-training with the skills and training to realise their true potential. By giving those who have been affected by homelessness a platform for their voices to be heard, we support and empower people to embark on their own individual journey as they work to become a tour guide. The other half of our mission is to break down the negative stigmas that surround homelessness. By enabling meaningful interaction between our guides and the guests on our walking tours, we encourage stereotypes to be challenged and perceptions to be shifted.
Who are you and how did you come to work there?
I’m Lauren and I am the Sales and Business Development Officer for Invisible (Manchester). I graduated from The University of Manchester in 2016 with a Law LLB Hons degree and no clue what to do next. All I knew was that I wanted to utilise my passion for challenging injustices in society and make a difference. After travelling through Australia and South East Asia, I began volunteering for the Street & Paws Community team. This involved heading out onto the streets of Liverpool each week to hand out hot food, drinks and dog food to people who were rough sleeping. This opened my eyes to the true extent of the homelessness crisis in England today and reignited my drive to make a change. When the Invisible Cities role came up, it was a dream come true. I am now able to utilise my previously acquired marketing and sales knowledge to help Invisible (Manchester) grow, all while helping to challenge the injustices that surround homelessness.
What opportunities are there for students to get involved?
Here at Invisible (Manchester) we’re all university graduates ourselves, so we love working with students who share our enthusiasm for making positive social change. We have a plethora of student volunteers who carry out different roles and responsibilities. From tour buddies for our guides to film students helping us move our tours online, we advertise all of our voluntary positions on the Volunteer Hub – so keep an eye out if you’d like to get involved!
Students can also get involved by coming on one of our tours. Invisible (Manchester) were part of the University of Manchester Welcome Week and our guides adapted their tours to start at the Students’ Union on Oxford Road. The incredible feedback we got from students has inspired one of our guides, Danny, to create a student-specific tour that will start on Oxford Road and lead into town. So keep your eyes peeled for this in the new year!
Last but not least, students can get involved by creating fundraisers to support the work that we do. Our guides have been invited to events and sessions with societies in the past to talk about the misconceptions surrounding homelessness. Our guide Danny is a published poet, so loves to get involved in anything art related. As a transgender woman, Laura (another one of our guides) has a tour that focuses on powerful women of Manchester and how the LGBTQ+ community in our city has encouraged her transition journey. These are just two of our incredible guides, so if you’re a student who has an idea that will allow our guide’s voices to be heard, please reach out!
How can students get in touch with you if they have any questions?
And on that note, please reach out to me via email, WhatsApp or phone call.
Phone: (+44) 7843 818063