Why this story matters:
One of French President Emmanuel Macron’s boldest and most ambitious promises was to abolish homelessness by the end of 2017. In France, we’ve seen the extent to which politicians are disconnected from reality, especially when it comes to the reality of living in Paris or any other major French city.
In January, for example, French politician Julien Denormandie said in a radio interview that there were only 50 homeless people living in Paris. Public outrage ensued. Later, Jean-François Copé, a candidate for the primary elections, claimed chocolate croissants cost “around 10 or 15 cents.” The internet laughed.
But underneath this laughter was a hidden anxiety, a sad realization, that wealthy politicians are completely ignorant of the struggles of ordinary citizens.
This initiative might come too late, but it's not too little. It will unveil the truth and urgency about homelessness in Paris that people in power need to understand. It also will allow associations, social workers and the French state to work with official data.
Details from the story:
- On Thursday night into early Friday morning, 2,000 volunteers and social workers roamed the streets of Paris to gather data on the number of homeless people in the city.
- The capital was divided into 350 subsections, with teams of three to five volunteers led by social workers.
- Each team asked people how long they have been homeless, if they ever called the emergency number (115) and if they were offered accommodation. Then each homeless person received a light meal.
- “Parisians are tired of rubbing shoulders with the homeless population without knowing what to do,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
- The results of the Paris homeless census will be published on March 20.
- Eleven homeless people have died on the streets of Paris since Jan. 1.