Thursday, July 27, 2006

Homeless in Paris

From the Associated Press, an account of how homelessness is a problem in Paris.
Eric Creuly’s bedroom is a khaki tent on the banks of a Paris canal. His kitchen is a barbecue made from a metal barrel, and his living room is a set of mismatched chairs where he and friends smoke and watch the pleasure boats pass.

Tent camps have become a familiar sight in Paris since the aid group Doctors of the World, or Medecins du Monde, first distributed tents in December to shelter the homeless and make their plight less invisible.

But complaints about the tents have been pouring into City Hall, and four tents were burned this weekend in circumstances that are still unclear. With Paris sweltering in a heat wave, authorities say the tents are unsanitary and dangerous.

Socialist City Hall wants many of them moved, and the conservative government wants them just plain gone. Last week, the government named a mediator to find a solution.

About 300 tents with the aid group’s insignia still dot Paris -- and they are even harder to overlook in July, when tourists fill the streets and Parisians live outdoors. Now, some homeless are even saving money to buy tents themselves.

. . .

The tents have popped up under bridges on the Seine River, near the stretch of quay where City Hall sets up a sandy beach every summer. They appeared on chic avenues and on the Canal Saint-Martin, a trendy area for nightlife.

Creuly, a 48-year-old construction worker who became homeless after losing his job a year ago, has spent a few weeks living in his girlfriend’s Doctors of the World tent. It’s better than going to a shelter, he says: He isn’t kicked out during the day and doesn’t have to worry about his belongings being stolen.

. . .

France, with a population of nearly 63 million, has about 86,500 homeless people, according to a landmark 2001 study by the INSEE statistics agency. The Abbe Pierre Foundation, which works with the homeless, said this year that the figure is closer to 150,000.
The best estimates of the number of homeless people in the U.S. run in the range of 267 to 462 thousand people on any given day. (Click here to see the data in web page format.)

The homeless are difficult to count -- here or overseas -- and activists always tend to inflate the count. One trick to be careful of is reporting the number of people who are homeless at any time during a given year. That number will be vastly larger than the number of people who are homeless on any given night.

Other European countries likewise have a significant problem of homelessness.
Crisis report puts the number of homeless at between 310,00 and 380,000


A new report by Crisis suggests that there are between 310,000 and 380,000 single homeless people. The cost of one person's homelessless over a twelve month period is estimated to be £24,500.

The aim of the report is to examine the usefulness of the term single homelessness, answer the questions of how many homeless people there are and how much homelessness costs, and address the policy implications of the findings.

The figure of 310,000-380,000 includes a number of different groups of homeless people: rough sleepers, people in supported housing, people in B&Bs, people at imminent risk of eviction, squatters, concealed households sharing overcrowded accommodation and concealed households where the head of the household deems the arrangements unsatisfactory. However, not everyone in these groups are counted. The authors use a series of filters to exclude people in those groups who may not be homeless. For example, people who choose to stay in B&Bs.
It seems the myth of the European welfare state is fraying at the edges. People who believe that homelessness, crime, unemployment and poverty are particularly American problems — that other industrial democracies have consistently done better — simply haven’t been paying attention.


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