Montreuil – France
THE CONTEXT OF YOUR INITIATIVE
The Solidarity Lockers initiative began in Lisbon, as a result of conversations that ACA volunteers had with people living on the streets. It became clear that homeless people are waging a daily battle to prevent their money, documents, clothing and belongings which have a sentimental value from being stolen and that they needed a safe place to keep their belongings. “In the street, there is no trust. It’s every man for himself, you just have to find a way to get by.” These solidarity lockers are offering trust to the homeless people who receive one.
After a long design process with a local company, the first solidarity lockers were set up in Lisbon in 2015. In 2018, 60 lockers were offered to homeless people who agreed to sign a contract which included an obligatory weekly meeting with a social worker. The results are impressive: over two-thirds of those who have left the scheme have been able to find work, housing, a rehabilitation centre or a reintegration community.
Emmaus Alternatives is responsible for setting up the first solidarity lockers for homeless people in France. In partnership with the city of Montreuil, near Paris, and the Portuguese Association ACA, 12 lockers were installed in October 2018, and an additional 12 in November 2020.
With its simplicity and immediate positive impact, this project complements the work Emmaus Alternatives has carried out since 1991, supporting people living on the streets, or those alienated from the labour market, in accessing their rights and finding employment.
Far from keeping people on the street, this project is a new reintegration tool, targeting those who are most excluded. Indeed, although the solidarity lockers aim to meet a specific, fundamental need, the social support work and the social links created around access to these lockers are essential for forging a path to gradually help people get off the streets, following a step-by-step process.
THE ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT AS PART OF YOUR INITIATIVE
Identifying the public
The new beneficiaries are identified by means of visits made by social workers to the area concerned. Some individuals volunteer to join the scheme spontaneously.
• A locker enables the beneficiary to safely store their personal belongings. Each beneficiary receives a key so they have access to their belongings 24/7.
• The beneficiary is supported by a specific social support worker who offers a weekly meeting to support them in their reintegration process. This commitment (to attend the meetings and take the necessary steps) is set out in a contract signed at the time of handing over the key to the locker.
Registered address: We have made the decision not to systematically register all the beneficiaries at our association, but to direct them towards to the CCAS (Community Social Action Centre) in Montreuil, in order to maintain the link with the mainstream services. In total, 7 registered addresses have been set up.
Administrative support: When the scheme was set up, those receiving a locker had been living on the streets for several months, some even for several years, and they no longer engaged in administrative procedures. They did not ask for help from support services.
The administrative support that we provide should help them to regain confidence and, with our support, to agree to carry out administrative procedures (identity card, access to health care, etc.).
Healthcare support: For 7 of the beneficiaries, setting up health care support was required and was a prerequisite to all reintegration efforts. This provision is carried out systematically through physical support (for medical appointments and specialised services for addiction). We have also taken steps to ensure access to health-related rights.
Finding housing: Our initiative involved completing Interview and Evaluation Sheets (13 beneficiaries) and calling the 115 emergency social services (11 people). The majority of those supported do not want us to start finding them accommodation, as they are worried about the conditions in which they might be housed (shared housing, put out onto the street in the morning, etc.).
Street support alerts: During the lockdown, the social worker was able to make 3 alerts to the Mobile Aid Teams (REMA) using “the street support alert form” set up by our partners at 115 (emergency social services) and the integrated reception and guidance service (SIAO). These teams were also able to provide help (food parcels, essential clothing, social contact) to 3 locker recipients who were facing grave hardships due to the closure of the services they normally frequented, particularly in the evening during this period.
Food aid: We took action to help 7 users who expressed a need for food aid, either internally (distribution of food parcels every Friday at the association’s head office) or by directing them to the Restos du Cœur [French association which provides free meals].
Clothing and equipment assistance: All the beneficiaries have received clothing vouchers enabling them to find suitable clothing as required for the season from one of our clothing shops. For 7 of them, we provided other essential items (sleeping bags and covers), to improve their living conditions on the street.
Professional reintegration support: 4 people state they have a professional activity: 1 person has a part-time, permanent contract; 2 people have interim/temporary work and one person is part of a reintegration scheme. One person has been referred to our reintegration scheme to become a volunteer.
Financial support: We provide users without income with financial aid to improve their daily lives (payment of fees to renew their national identify card and French classes).
End of care
Ms M: She left the scheme with a personal solution and a permanent job. Her situation is still precarious, access to independent accommodation remains impossible until she starts divorce proceedings.
Duration of care: 14 months.
Mr N: He never adhered to the scheme. For him, it was simply a question of storing his belongings safely. He refused to have any discussions or interaction with the social worker. We stopped his care. Duration of care: 10 months.
Mr E: Mr E was a very independent individual who had very little need for a social worker. Throughout the support period, he shared the numerous plans he was able to put into effect by himself. He found a job which he then lost two months later. Shortly afterwards, he was removed from his home (a squat), and that is when he turned to his social worker. Very quickly he once again refused any offers of support. He made abusive and threatening speeches. He emptied out his locker himself. Duration of care: 14 months.
Mr C: Mr C’s request on joining this scheme and throughout the support process was to be able to find housing and look for a job. The support focussed on looking for accommodation by trying to remove the long-term obstacles (duplicate residence permit, psychological care) which slowed down the fulfilment of his plan. The care period ended when Mr C was imprisoned for a long period of time. Duration of care: 17 months.
Mr Y: Mr Y’s support mainly concerned gaining access to his entitlement to Revenu de Solidarité Active (Active Solidarity Income) and medical care (fragile health). He showed no desire to leave the streets and find a job. The key was return by mutual agreement. Today, he stays with his brothers from time to time and he continues to receive treatment. Duration of care: 15 months.
The average duration of care was 14 months for the individuals supported.
WHO IS INVOLVED FROM OUR GROUP?
A social worker who is provided with portable IT equipment so that the online procedures can be carried out in the street (telephone, computer, internet connection).
His work and development are supported by the Director of Social Action and Housing, who is also responsible for developing and sustaining this scheme.
WHICH PARTNERS ARE YOU WORKING WITH ON THIS INITIATIVE?
October 2018: installation of 12 solidarity lockers in Montreuil.
Between 15 October 2018 and 30 September 2020, 16 people have benefitted from a locker.
November 2020: installation of 12 new solidarity lockers in Montreuil.
The city of Montreuil now has 24 solidarity lockers. Thanks to this scheme, nine of the twelve initial individuals still benefit from this scheme, and those who were undocumented and had no health care coverage, have now been able to obtain an identity card and Universal Health Coverage (CMU, for its initials in French).
WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD ANY INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR INITIATIVE?
WHAT ARE YOUR PROSPECTS?
Since 2018, we have been identifying needs, particularly in terms of human resources to enable us to develop the scheme at a national level. Being awarded funding from the ‘La France s’engage’ Foundation has enabled us to respond to this need.