Night of solidarity in Marseille: “We do not die of hunger, but of cold, isolation and madness”



In front of the pharmacy, the man is sitting on a roller walker. Gray beard and green parka, the sexagenarian responds diligently to questions from volunteers at the first “Solidarity Night” that Marseille is organizing this Thursday, January 20.

As in some twenty cities in France, this initiative, driven by the Ministry of Housing, aims to ” have a complete picture of homeless people, their profiles and their needs “, summarized Laurent Carrié, prefect for equal opportunities, at a time when the first volunteers put on yellow vests and FFP2 masks.

→ ANALYSIS. Marseille organizes its first Night of Solidarity

Then they scattered in this city where 16,000 people call emergency services at least once a year and where there is a chronic shortage of accommodation. “A response on a case-by-case basis is also produced by going out to meet women and men who have been thrown out into the street by the chaos of life”had completed the mayor (PS) of Marseille, Benoît Payan, before going marauding himself at the wheel of the van of the municipal social Samu.

Clearly identified needs

Chaos is Abdel’s daily life. Sitting on his walker, he obviously needs to talk. Facing him, Leila takes notes. Abdel is disabled, he has problems ” to the legs “, he explains. He no longer has an apartment, ” it is [s] to the woman who kept him. So he sleeps where he can: “Sometimes my family welcomes me and sometimes not. So I spend the night outside. »

And to eat?, asks Leila. Abdel shrugs his shoulders: “That’s where I find it. » Abdel clearly identifies his needs: going to the doctor more often, having recourse to a social worker, being helped to complete his retirement file.

Team n°84 must cover a not very vast, but dense perimeter. There, on this square Stalingrad which extends the Canebière, between the metro station and the tram stops, many homeless people often concentrate. Leila, Gilles, Béatrice, Pascale and Daniel are part of the thousand Marseillais (about 900 volunteers and a hundred civil servants) registered for this vast collection of information. They came to each other “to help support these people as best as possible”, summarizes Beatrice. It extends: “I live in the neighborhood, I meet these people every day. We can’t close our eyes! »

→ STORY. Born without a roof: Youssouph, the child of a long journey

Night falls slowly, the wind picks up, the cold sets in. Valery is sitting at the foot of a tree, next to the Danaides fountain, his little white dog wrapped in a yellow child’s jacket. The man is Russian. He does not speak French. He makes it clear that he doesn’t have too much difficulty feeding himself, but that he has no roof.

A homeless man crossed earlier, Willy, a former teacher whose life has “tumbled” when his bipolarity was diagnosed made this chilling remark to Gilles: “In Marseille, people don’t die of hunger, but of cold, isolation and madness. »

Illness and addictions

In this district of the Reformed, poor housing is coupled with other problems. Drug addiction and alcoholism, in particular. Mohamed staggers, in an advanced state of intoxication. He shows a Caf paper. The man has a home but “it’s a squat” rented to him for €660 by his owner” a crook “he mumbles.

A boy in a blue jacket with the OM logo struggles to answer Pascale’s questions. She barely understands that he has lived in France for 20 years, including five on the street, that he is the father of a child. “He’s a little confused. There is such distress in his gaze. Distress without complaint, it upsets me”, breath, moved, this municipal employee.

A few meters away, an old gentleman has lined up two pallets to make a bed, in front of a newsstand. He has wrapped himself in a sleeping bag and refuses to speak to the volunteers. “We do not insist, people are not obliged to answer us”, asks Gilles. The temperature will flirt with zero tonight. Long hair and light eyes, sitting on the steps of the Reformed Church next to two cans of beer, a 50-year-old says he does not want to sleep in a home and has difficulty washing himself, which he did not do. since one month.

→ REPORT. In Paris, one night to identify the homeless

He is smiling. His companion less. After a few minutes, she asks the small team to “release”: “What is your thing for? We want help, not talk to you! » But the rebuffs are not the majority. Abdel, him, sends a kiss to the small troop. And challenges: “Are you coming back tomorrow?” »

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