Sunday, May 14, 2006

Not always the most beautiful city in the world...

For once, it's good to remember that Paris is not all about fashion, flowers, haute cuisine and architecture. There are also about 10 000 to 15 000 homeless people (sans domicile fixe).


  1. It's just not the third world countries that have this problem, its also in our backyard.Sometimes it's good to be reminded.

  2. Same here in San Francisco. I think it just might be a global trend :(

  3. Even in Chattanooga there's a homeless population.

  4. How appropriate. I just got done making a large pan of pasta salad for tomorrow's dinner at a homeless men's shelter that our church helps to sponsor. It is so sad to know that they have nobody to take care of them.

  5. Thanks for showing this side of Paris. It's too easy to ignore it.

  6. Homelessness just keeps growing and growing, no matter what we say or try to do on an individual basis. Habitat for Humanity seems to be the one organization that actually builds homes for the homeless. They are international but I saw that France was not one of the affiliates. Anyway, here's their general link.

    On the bright side, at least this person is in Paris and on PDP! :)

  7. Eric, I think this is a good post and PDP is as charming as before :-)

  8. Thank you Eric for reminding us about them.
    It is a shame for our country.
    How can they survive in a city where you have to pay to go to the toilets?
    But solitude is probably the worst they have to face in Paris.

  9. Homeless people in big cities are a global phenomenon and it exists also in my city Athens, Greece. What it is really surprising when you visit Paris is that you don't expect only a few meters away from the most glamorous hotels and the most amazing vitrines, to find homeless people. And the most weird is that often these people are not alcoholics or just crazy guys as you could expect but only poor people who happened to lost their properties.
    I read in the NYT, that "since late December, Médecins du Monde, a Paris-based organization that helps the homeless, has been distributing nylon tents to the growing number of people who sleep on the city's sidewalks and beneath its bridges."
    This is a good message and I hope to be followed also by all the cities which face the same problem, including Athens.
    Eric, it is obvious that you really love and care about Paris, because you don’t turn your head to its – a very few, I confess – ugly sides.

  10. Eric, there's so much to say about this photo from both the humanity side as well as the artistic.

    As I am not an expert on either, I do love the way you took this, through the fence, which looks likes prison bars...keeping the man in or him being confined by this bad situation.

    On the other side, when I first came to Paris it surprised me in the beginning to see such scenes were I didn't expect them (see Philos' comment), but then I began to understand the government's approach to such matters. It doesn't make it any easier, but I do know that France is still in many ways a country of "live and let live". It is also a country where the people feel it's the government's job to take care of it's people, which may be a reason to not see Habitat for Humanity(?)

    Debs, I think what you're doing is great to help. Every little bit touches someone. And I'm sure that I couldn't resist your pasta salad!

  11. Philos, I too read the NYT article and saw the pictures.
    Eric, have you seen these tents on the streets?


  12. Everybody in Paris saw theses tents. I think Med. du Monde also did that to make people remember there is people in the street. I mean that people see the tents whereas they are used not to see homeless just to cross them.

  13. Bonjour,

    Comme l'indiquent fort justement certains commentaires, les sans abris sont un sujet universel et toutes les grandes villes y sont confrontées, qu'elles soient dans l'hémisphère nord comme en Afrique ou ailleurs.

    La question que je me posais en lisant le message d'Eric était de savoir s'il existait dans d'autres métropoles un équivalent au SAMU social et au numéro d'appel téléphonique 115 que nous connaissons en France (notamment lors des périodes de grands froid).

    Si quelqu'un pouvait nous éclairer sur ce point, ce serait sympa.

    Merci d'avance,


  14. I agree with Michael that this shot is absolutely masterful, it captures in a very vivid fashion the plight of this homeless man - and his despair. The prison bars symbolism is very powerful. Thanks for yet, another great perspective on Paris.

    Debs - I am impressed by the work you and your church are doing.

    Didier - I am actually not sure what the equivalent of the SAMU Social would be in the U.S., but I know that cities monitor, and provide shelter for the homeless whenever it gets very gold.

  15. Telling shot Eric...Black & white and the fence really help tell the story...

    Aren't we all fortunate this isn't how we spend our days?


  16. Very poignant. In the small suburb of St. Louis where I grew up there was just one hameless person. I think everyone knew him, I've talked to him a few times. It was interesting to actually hear the story of a homeless man who lost it all and was too proud to take any handouts.

  17. Actually, I get the feeling that the man feels protected by his fence; it is rough on the streets, and he has carved out a little space for himself.

    We have SDF (homeless and transients) here in Montréal as well, and alas, some die every winter as it is so cold here, though we do have organisations similar to the SAMU social.

    I don't see Habitat for Humanity functioning in Paris, not only because it counter to the mentality but also because any kind of housing in Paris has to be multi-unit, and can't really be built by amateurs.

    I visited the tent village at rue de la Réunion, about 15 years ago, a slightly different problem as it concerned immigrant families, not lone homeless people who often have a series of social and psychological problems - though as Philos in Athens pointed out, not always, or sometimes the problems reached crisis point AFTER they lost their flat.

  18. There are unpretty sides of life, and there are beautiful sides of life, and most of it is in between. Yes, Eric, it is important to remember that ugly does not go away just because we don't look at it. Sorry, but reality is NOT only what you see. But, beauty does not go away, either. See the beauty, see the ugly, and do what you can to be a decent person. C'est la vie.

  19. Dear Eric, Previous posts have already said it all, but I will repeat some of my feelings. It is a great image, well shot and depicts the problem that western society for the most part tries to ignore; at times I include myself in that statement.
    I know there are many, many organizations that do help with this situation which is always given a lot of publicity once winter comes and it is so good to see the help that people give.

    I will see people such as this and think I must do something to help, but I never do - except perhaps to give a few Euro’s here and there.

    There has been a great deal of interest and controversy about someone who through their blog told their story of being homeless and living in a car. I’ll say no more but if you anyone is interested it is well worth reading. When it was featured in an online article on the BBC this lady got so much support but what was surprising was just how much hate mail (comments) she received for trying to do something about getting out of her situation.

    As I say well worth a read WanderingScribe

  20. wilf, a few euros here and there is a lot more then many people do. I don't know about you, but I'm certainly not very rich. Giving a little bit whenever possible is wonderful, and you are obvisouly a very wonderful person for not only giving a little but also for feeling bad that you can't give more!

  21. every city has a homeless problem but it's always neglected. thanks for reminding us.

  22. KbytheBay> Well observed. This guy looks more like a tourist rather than a homeless guy. There are several incides as you noted: the nice wine, the leather bag on the left, the backpak neatly packed, his clothes (leather pants and boots nicely laced). He is probably reading a newspaper or a map.

    Nice reflexion on the homeless in the city, but this guy is more likely a tourist.. IMHO.


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  27. "Sans domicile fixe" - c'est l'expression courante ou apropos en 2007? Quand j'etais en France de 1972 a 1973, on les appelait "clochards". Ce qui est triste c'est qu'ils existent toujours en Europe, ainsi qu'ici aux Etats Unis.