Homeless crisis: aiding and responding to our neighbors made simple.
Cold Blue. A common term amongst North Americans that signifies awareness for falling temps and extreme-cold weather. From Chicago to Toronto, New York to Boston, these major cities often called for a count of folks without shelter during the difficult winter months. And now you can count on Paris, fluctuat nec mergitur. Recently, Paris took charge and joined in with a similar initiative called “Nuit de la Solidarité”. A call to actions by NGO’s that work with the homeless population in understanding the numbers of homeless men and women in our city streets.
Throughout the night of February 15, and into the early morning, participating volunteers alongside NGO’s conducted a census of rough sleepers in the capital. The aim of this project was to better evaluate the conditions of people who find themselves sleeping outside on the street. The volunteers were able to count and census a total of 2,952 people amongst all the Arrondissement in Paris. While this number is a start to understand the volume of need in the city, it is important to note that the number of people who find themselves in a position of no fixed housing, sans-domicile fixé (SDF) as their called in France, is far greater. The communicated number did not include persons sleeping in car parking lots, housing stairwell, nor did the volunteers open tents to count the people within. Those who are able to find an indoor sleeping situation in emergency shelters, but are turned out when morning comes, were excluded from the count as well.
This census came right before the current extreme cold front that swept through European cities, dropping temperatures to as low as -7C. Those affected the most are the very ones that were being counted by the city. According to BBC, at least six people across the continent have died since the cold front as a result of exposure to extreme weather. This number is a call of urgency to find a solution to the problem of the grand exclusion of homeless folks. The project was appropriately called Night of Solidarity, to not only help create solidarity among the rough sleepers that were counted but also with associations that frequently interact with the homeless population in Paris. The city’s mayor, Ms. Anne Hidalgo urged the citizens of Paris to engage and support associations that have established missions of providing aid to the people in the street. On the 20th of March, at Hôtel de Ville, Parisians will be given the opportunity to meet the different associations that participated in La Nuit de Solidarité and who operate daily with homeless services.
This first census brings clarity and awareness of the mission of Serve the City Paris, and also shows us and our fellow Parisian how much we need each other. This census and project should be a call for volunteers to support more associations, including STCP by donating volunteer hours. While it is important to be informed on the condition of our city, we need to be aware that if there is something we can do, we should take it upon ourselves and cultivate our social responsibility and join hands with those who are already trying to make a difference.