Counting Homeless on Paris Streets


This February, 2,000 civil workers and volunteers did a night-time count on the Paris streets. This event was organized by the mayor of Paris and her office. The volunteers were given out maps to cover the Amandier zone in a little over an hour. The number of volunteers was around 1700 people.

The goal of the count is to account for the homeless on the streets of Paris and provide better services to them. Besides the count, there was a short survey that each homeless person was to fill out.

The number of homeless people in the French capital has significantly increased in the past years. In winter, things are very harsh for them. Since the beginning of this year, 11 people have died on the streets due to hypothermia, disease, or substance abuse.

The issue is a cause of conflict between activists and President Emmanuel Macron's government. The first believe that the government is closing its eyes on the problem and covering it up with downsizing claims.

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, has taken up things in her own hands with the Nuit de la Solidarité event. The idea was sparked up after similar counting was done in New York, Washington D.C, and other big cities like Athens and Brussels.

The volunteers and social activists teams were divided into groups of two per homeless person. Only people that were anonymous and awake during the action were to be given interviews. No photographs were taken of the interviewed.

The most difficult part was recognizing a homeless person. Sometimes there are no visible signs - ones like sleeping on benches or bottles of alcohol nearby. Besides counting the homeless, the campaign set a goal to debunk the stereotypes that surround homelessness.

Going out on the streets, most homeless people do not want to be bothered and refuse to answer the questionnaire. There are groups of Roma families living in trucks with their children. In the Amandiers sector of Paris, the number of homeless people was summed up to be 18.

More night counts will be conducted until the end of March to determine the overall amount of homeless people in the French capital. The city officials are determined to battle the controversial statement of the State Secretary for Housing Julien Denormandie that there are only 50 homeless people on the streets of Paris and that some people are homeless by their own will.

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