The housing war - 1955

After the Second World War (1939 - 1945), France faced a serious housing crisis. Overwhelmed by requests from homeless families or those in substandard housing, the Emmaus association, created in 1949, came to their aid, rehousing them and launching emergency housing projects. Thus, from the start of his work until the end of his life, Abbé Pierre made the fight for decent housing a major focus of his work. We can find it in many of his writings, particularly this handwritten text, “the housing war”, [1955].


The Housing War

Whether we rejoice or deplore it, whether we recognise or refuse to see it, [a war] has been declared.

Nothing will be able to stop it.

It will be won by generally mobilising the nation’s energies, through uniting all our forces under the leadership, in each region, of Housing Commissioners, endowed with full powers in their field, and reporting directly to the Head of Government.

Or it will be lost in riots, which is no longer an exaggeration. Although state officials and the privileged, and the defenders of privileges without justification and which contravene the public good, are certainly unaware of it, ignorance does not prevent an unrecognised reality from being what it is. Things are now at a stage where the two conditions for riots are in place: excess, beyond bearable limits of suffering and mourning for those who suffer, and evidence for those who love, who feel that they should be [by their side]*, have now reached the level of horror where only riots or full powers will measure up.

And if we think that the conditions for full powers are not in place, we need to know that. The conditions for riots are indeed there, as at the same time both the horror and absurdity of the situation are known. Both the victims and their defenders are many in number, they are not yet dumbfounded, and they are united in a determined front in this fight for life or death. For whoever lives here is no better off, and sometimes (as I've heard a hundred times) it is worse than dying.

* Addition for ease of understanding.

The housing war - 1955