‘It’s unacceptable’: 11 homeless people die on Paris streets in just six weeks

Nearly a dozen people sleeping rough on the streets of the French capital have died since January 1st, according to new figures as Paris announces plans to count the number of homeless in the city.

'It's unacceptable': 11 homeless people die on Paris streets in just six weeks
PhotoL AFP
Between January 1st and February 12th, 11 people living on the Paris streets have died.
And across the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France there were a total of 18 deaths in the same period, according to the list from Les Morts dans la Rue (Deaths on the street), a collective dedicated to documenting the deaths of homeless people in France. 
There's no doubt that the scale of the problem of rough sleeping on the streets of Paris is hard to ignore, with the sheer number of people begging in the French capital raising the eyebrows of locals and visitors alike.
In response to the list, Jean-Christophe Combe, director general of the Red Cross, told Le Figaro that the situation was “not acceptable and not sustainable”.
Combe added that the causes of death on the street are multiple and include “hypothermia, chronic disease and addiction”. 
What you need to know about begging in Paris
Photo: AFP
Meanwhile the collective said that a man's life expectancy drops from 79 to 49 when he is living without shelter.
These deaths sometimes relate to the cold but, according to Cécile Rocca, coordinator of the collective: “Deaths can also be caused by suicide, an accident or violence,” she told Le Figaro.
“Since 2012, we are on an average of 500 deaths per year for France. It's relatively constant. These are mostly men around 53 years old,” Rocca said.
“Women account for only 10 percent of deaths,” she added. 
The latest victim in Paris was a 52-year-old woman who died overnight on Sunday on rue Lafayette in the 9th arrondissement. 
She had been living on the street for three years, according to French press reports.
Despite attempts to rescue her she could not be revived and her death became the 11th of its kind in just six weeks. 
Photo: AFP
Unsurprisingly, the figures have prompted questions about whether the city is doing enough for its homeless population. 
The figures were released just as Paris revealed details of its Nuit de la Solidarite (Night of Solidarity) project. 
This will see an army of 1,700 volunteers take to the streets with the aim of counting the number of people living on the streets in a bid to better distribute services. 
At the moment the government is unsure of how many people are sleeping rough. 
And according to experts, the recent figures reveal how much needs to change when it comes to helping the homeless in Paris. 
“This is not about the amount of space available, we have opened another 2700 places as part of the winter plan,” said Dominique Bordin in charge of working with the homeless at City Hall.
“But we need to have a response adapted to the needs of these people. We must get better at convincing them, better at detecting vulnerability and finding solutions more suited to individual situations.”
And there are worries that the the problem, already bad, is getting worse. 
“There have been more and more French people ending up on the streets in recent years with rising unemployment. And there is a problem with the lack of local solidarity,” Louis-Xavier Leca, Director of La Cloche, an organisation that promotes relationships between neighbourhood businesses, residents and the homeless living there, previously told The Local. 
“After my own experience spending time in Chile and West Africa, I think it can be worse to fall on hard times in Paris than in poorer countries. People tend to be more isolated here,” he added.


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.