Solidarity Night: "My name is Marc. I have been out for twenty years "

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On the night of Thursday to Friday – between 10 pm and 1 am – Paris counted its homeless on the occasion of its second night of solidarity. The results will be known in a few days. For this census, the capital was subdivided into 360 sectors, covered by as many teams of three to four members responsible for counting people who sleep outside. Knowing that 23,000 people are also accommodated each night in reception facilities (gymnasiums converted into dormitories, emergency shelter, rehabilitation centers …) and who, otherwise, would also be homeless. The homeless living in public spaces are therefore only part of the iceberg of great precariousness.

In addition to the roads of the capital, metro stations, railway stations, the Bois de Boulogne and Vincennes (which belong to the city of Paris), the car parks were combed, but also the emergency services of the city. AP-HP (Public Assistance of Paris hospitals) also attended by homeless, including those of Saint-Louis Hospital, in the Xe borough. "Sometimes people come to the emergency room because they have health problems, and you realize that they are also homeless, says a person in charge of the establishment's staff. Sometimes they come on the pretext of a health problem, but in reality they seek shelter. And sometimes they come in and say frankly: here I am homeless, I need to be warm. " A nurse and his colleague on duty, claim that "Two or three regulars" come and take shelter at night in the urgencies of St. Louis. "This winter, we also had a few families with children. In this case we warn the social worker. " The "Emergencies that remain the only light lit in the night, he said, do what they can. The teams always give a little bit: a meal tray, clothes, a shower ».

"God does not want me"

To identify the homeless, a team of four people arrives in Saint-Louis around 22 hours. It consists of Sébastien, social worker in the Val-d'Oise, Pauline who works in a cabinet of auditors, Farah, public purchaser at the Social Action Center of the city of Paris. They volunteered on the website set up by the City Council to recruit the enumerators for one night, or 2,000 people in total. With them, there is a Parisian elected, also volunteer, the Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of Health, Anne Souyris. The four enumerators are there but there is no homeless person to register this Thursday night in the emergency room.

© Corentin Fohlen / Divergence. Paris, France. February 7, 2019. 2nd night of solidarity in Paris, to identify the homeless. Census team in the emergency department of Saint Louis Hospital, Paris 10th arrondissement. Marco has been homeless for almost 25 years and spends most of his nights in the corridors of the Saint Louis Hospital Emergency Department.

Marco, at St. Louis Hospital. Photo Corentin Fohlen. Divergence

In the waiting room, you turn your thumbs talking about everything and nothing. Until the arrival, around 11 pm, Marc, with his banter and his good jokes. Sky blue jacket, white shirt, beige pants, black shoes, bald head, it is presented. "My name is Marc. But everyone calls me Marco. It seems that you list the homeless. I have been outside for twenty years. In winter I sleep here on a stretcher." He says he was born "May 12, 1968, not boulevard Saint-Michel, but at the hotel Dieu [un hôpital parisien situé près de Notre Dame aujourd’hui désaffecté, ndlr]. Afterwards I was put in the Dass. I was placed in a family that was hitting on me. I made the army. I was a roofer. One day I slipped. My leg took a hit, he said, rubbing his left thigh. He became homeless, after a painful marital breakdown that pulled him down. A deep depression led to his death. "I missed myself three times. I do not think God wants me. " The tone of the joke is his way of approaching serious subjects. "When I'm depressed, I go to see my therapist at Sainte-Anne. There one day, I gave a cigarette to someone. He ate it. He told me, you give me another one. I answered him. Oh no. " Marc vs Marco makes the show. It makes laughter urgent. "One day they put me in Neuilly-Plaisance [une antenne psychiatrique aujourd’hui désaffectée ndlr]. It's called the White House as in the States [il le prononce à l’américaine]. I locked myself in my room all the time. There are only crazy people there. "

"More and more women on the street"

Otherwise he talks about his daily life: the days he passes at the media library of the Cité des Sciences de la Villette, "In the first basement to watch interesting documentaries". Sometimes he goes to eat at the market of Saint-Germain where, every lunchtime, volunteers serve a meal to twenty people homeless. He also goes to the premises of the Samu social where there is a TV room, a library. Sometimes he does the round. His experience makes him say that "In rich neighborhoods like the XVIe people give less than the inhabitants of popular neighborhoods like the Xe. " He says that in the street there are many people cultivated. He is constantly referring to the news. To the story. We come to talk about the Red Cross and immediately he says that she "Was founded by Henry Dunant in 1863".

It is almost midnight and a woman in her forties arrives. She is covered with a hat and a long blue wool coat. She is homeless. We will know by Marco that she also comes to take refuge regularly at night in the urgencies of Saint-Louis. But it will be impossible to talk to her. Not by refusal. But as soon as one tries to evoke her situation she is overwhelmed by emotion. She smiles, but she is voiceless and tears flow down her face. "There are more and more women on the street," relates Marco. "They opened a women's center at Hidalgo [dans des salons de l’Hôtel de ville de Paris, ndlr]. That's right. But why did not they do it before? " He asks. The man asks many questions about the public policies of the fight against the exclusions, and emits ideas like: "Why do not they hire homeless people on the streets to do work and in return they would be given housing?" Then he returns to his personal situation to make his audience laugh better: "My problem is alcohol. I drink only beer. The poor man's beer, in big cans of 50 centilitres which is 8 degrees. One night I drank. I slept outside. I fell hypothermia. They just saved me. I felt myself leaving. I saw a light at the end of a long tunnel. On the other side there must have been St. Peter's. I prefer Saint Pierre and Miquelon. "

At 1 am, the countdown ends. In the urgencies of St. Louis, two homeless have been identified: Marco and the lady in tears. Last year, during the first operation of its kind in Paris, 3,035 people were found outside.

Tonino Serafini

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