Posh Parisians in open revolt over new homeless shelter

Boos, profanities and insults rang out at a public meeting in one of Paris’s poshest neighbourhoods as residents rose up in anger against a planned homeless shelter on their doorstep, which they say will be used by migrants.

Posh Parisians in open revolt over new homeless shelter
Photo: Moon Architecture.

“Liars,” “sons of bitches” and “bastards” were just some of the insults that were hurled at city officials as they took to the stage in the posh 16th arrondissement of Paris on Monday, to answer residents’ questions about a centre for 200 homeless people due to open on their doorstep this summer.

Residents of the plush 16th, who include some of the French capital's most well-to-do and famous are up in arms with hundreds of them turning up to Monday's volatile meeting, which had to be cut short for security concerns.

Many fear their house prices will tumble with the influx of 200 homeless people, while others say the area, on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne park will be ruined, while some point to security concerns. Others however fear it will become a migrant camp like the Calais “Jungle”, but this tile in Paris.

More than 50,000 have signed a petition in a bid to block the move.

The director of a local real estate agent who requested anonymity said that Monday’s meeting had been plagued by “an agitated atmosphere”.

“It’s clear that such a centre will have a [negative] effect on house prices in the area,” she told The Local.

An angry resident of the 16th told The Local that she felt that city officials had made the decision “without any respect for democratic procedures”.

She underscored residents’ concerns that the centre will be situated “next to Bois de Boulogne, an environmentally protected area. It is right in front of embassies, children's sport facilities… and 5 minutes from the Jardin de Ranelagh and Musee Marmottan Monet which [are] very much appreciated by foreign tourists.”

“This has the potential to create a “Calais” jungle within Paris and would take months to dismantle.

“Are we living in the USSR ? Where has democracy gone??,” she asked, adding “Paris is promoting safety, tourism and sports. I am not sure this project corresponds to this image…”


Why this refugee camp is scaring 'posh' Parisians


Françoise Gaujour, another local resident, said she wasn’t a “rich bourgoise”, but that the centre bothered her “not because it will house homeless people… Unfortunate men and women who we obviously need to help,” but because “it will make apartment prices fall.”

“My residential apartment, which is located in this area, has already lost 15 percent of its initial value since these construction plans were announced. This apartment is my only ‘fortune’… It’s my savings.”

“In France, we know that temporary often means permanent,” she noted about city officials assurances that the centre will only remain in the area for three years.

Gaujour said, however, that she was disgusted by the way the meeting had been disrupted by protesters, adding that many of them “weren’t even from the neighbourhood” and had come there with no intention at all to learn more about the project.

“It’s a shame,” she said.

The 16th arrondissement is one of the city’s most affluent, made up of wide avenues with tree-lined walkways, luxurious homes, and prestigious schools, but officials say it has hardly pulled its weight in accommodating society’s most vulnerable people compared with other Parisian neighbourhoods.

During the meeting, a resident of the 16th yelled out that the centre should be put up in Calais, the northern French port town which is already buckling under the strain of an influx of refugees and migrants.

While Paris City Hall insist the centre will not accommodate migrants, residents are wary with local Town Hall officials declaring it will become “the new Sangatte” – a reference to the notorious centre for migrants near Calais that was closed down in 2002.

Paris city official, Sophie Brocas, tried to calm the angry crowd saying there would be no migrants in the centre, “neither from Africa or anywhere else”.

Many of the residents targeted their anger at Socialist Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who has pushed for the 16th to take on more responsibility.

A chant of “Hidalgo resign” began whenever anger boiled over.

Max Guazzini, the former president of the Stade Français rugby union club of Paris and who is critical of the plans, said he had voted for Hidalgo in 2014, but that the move “will make the value of my apartment tumble”.

He also told reporters that “there are a lot of concerns regarding security, especially for women”.

The centre is scheduled to be erected in the next few weeks in an unused grassy area just off the Avenue du Maréchal Maunoury, which is across the peripherique ring road from the Bois de Boulogne – the second biggest park in Paris.

The homes will be managed by French non-profit organization Aurore, which houses around 20,000 people in France each year.

Several phone calls made to the city hall and officials in the 16th arrondisement by The Local on Monday went unanswered.


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The shocking stats that reveal the increasing number of homeless people dying in France

The number of homeless people dying in France has increased sharply with women and children among those who perish on the country's streets. These new figures reveal the extent of the problem.

The shocking stats that reveal the increasing number of homeless people dying in France
Photo: AFP


This is the official total for the number of homeless people who died in France in 2018, according to a new report by the French charity Morts de la Rue.

The figure represents those living either on the streets or in emergency shelters or unofficial squats in the months before they die. Some 20 percent of victims have been SDF (sans domicile fixe or homeless) for five years before their death.

In reality the real number is likely to be far higher. In fact health authorities in France suggest the true total could be as much as six times higher.

It can often be hard to determine an exact cause of death. Many homeless people suffer from illnesses and some 30 percent are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The suicide rate among homeless people is higher than average and violent attacks and accidents are also behind some of the deaths.

19 percent

This represents the percentage increase in the number of deaths between 2018 and 2017, when there were 511 recorded deaths of homeless people.

That represents the biggest jump in recent years but the number of deaths have been steadily rising since 2013 when there were 461 recorded.

50 percent

According to Morts de la Rue, 50 percent of the homeless people who die do so “before our eyes”, in other words on the streets in full view of the public.


That's the average age of the homeless men who died last year, well below France's average life expectancy which currently stands at 82 years.

14 percent

Some 14 percent of those homeless people who die are from around Europe. Indeed less than half are French, according to stats from Morts de la Rue.

Some 20 percent of victims are from outside the EU and 25 percent are registered as “unknown origin”.


The number of those who die on the streets of France or in shelters also include minors. Last year there were 13 homeless people who died under the age of 18.

90 percent

While 90 percent of the victims are men, there are an increasing number of women. 

“Homeless women are often invisible, face particular difficulties related to gender, and suffer from violence during their life on the street,” said the authors of the study.
Between 2013 and 2018, 280 homeless women died at an average age of just over 46 years old. That number included 24 young women including children under the age of nine. One third of those homeless women who died were mothers with young children.
So what needs to be done?
As part of his presidential election campaign Emmanuel Macron promised to provide a roof over the head of every single person in France. But the government has a lot of work to do before his promise is fulfilled.
Nevertheless the charity Morts de la Rue insists “a home for everyone” must be the ultimate goal for authorities.
“Having a place to live is vital,” say Morts de la Rue.
“We can see that the impact on people of their time spent on the streets – mostly the effect on their physical and mental health which makes reintegration more difficult and even impossible over time,” the study said.
But in the meantime the charity is demanding a new major government study into homelessness. The last one carried out by the state's statistics agency INSEE was back in 2012.
The charity also insists that there must be consistency in the emergency accommodation offered to homeless people, whether it's the night shelters or the temporary homeless accommodation that opens in the winter months but closes in the spring.
Homeless people must be offered shelter all year round, the charity says, to provide them with a base and some stability.
Homeless people also need to be followed more closely by health and social agencies especially after they have spent time in hospital. Often they are not offered any help at vital times such as the period between leaving hospital and waiting to being given temporary accommodation in a shelter.
Police and the courts also need to be made much more aware of the impact of domestic violence on women.
“If they are better protected, they will not be forced to flee their own homes to escape the violence that they endure,” added Morts de la Rue.