A homeless man chooses a rather unusual place to sleep as an unseasonal bout of cold weather descends upon Paris. The man was not resting there, but actually fully asleep!
This is a stark illustration of the serious homelessness issue in Paris, and indeed the whole of France, Europes second largest economy. In the last decade the number of people without stable accommodation has been growing rapidly year upon year. There are now around 35,000 people sleeping on the streets each night across France, including families with children.
It’s quite confronting being in Paris and seeing the number of people who “sleep rough” in the city. But what is perhaps more alarming to me is just how quickly their presence stopped confronting me. They became as ordinary as trees or parked cars, their presence just another part of the urban landscape.
It’s strange to think of the housing shortage in Paris when experts claim that around seven percent of the cities apartment are vacant. France is a country that is often tangled in complicated bureaucracy, and it’s said that long-standing policies to protect tenants apparently discourage many owners from putting properties up for rent. One such law makes it illegal for anyone to be evicted in winter.
There are of course, homeless shelters and other infrastructures in place to help with this problem. However, shelters have been accused of being unhygienic and plagued by theft and abuses which some homeless people claim make the choice of living on the street a safer option.
Watch the trailer of a short film called I could be your grandmother. It’s based on a true story about a man who made new cardboard signs for homeless people.
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