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Focus on Toulouse Métropole (FR): Who are the homeless in our city? How many are they?

Edited on

07 April 2022
Read time: 7 minutes

Friday night, 21st January 2022. The coldest night of the week. Well equipped with several warm layers of clothes, socks, gloves, scarf and cap, I am ready to meet my new team and to discover my new urban itinerary for the homeless street count.

Once again, I am a volunteer to join the street count teams of Toulouse Metropole for this annual event. Every year for the last four years, I enjoy contributing to one of the key actions of the French national Housing First/led Accelerated Plan. Each team counts 4 or 5 people, coming from different horizons: volunteers from NGOs who carry on regular street outreach work the year round (Red Cross, Secours Catholique, Restos du Coeur, Protection Civile and Main tendue) and from civil servants of the City of Toulouse or Toulouse Metropole. It is an interesting occasion to share about our motivations and our experiences.

We all miss the get together meeting which was organised during the first edition in February 2019 and that can no longer take place since the covid 19 crisis. All volunteers met at the Espace des Diversités to meet the members of their team, to listen to the instructions and advices before leaving to start their 4 kilometres walk in the city, along the streets of their designed section.  We all have a set of anonymous questionnaires to fill every time we meet a homeless in the street and if he or she agrees to answer to our questions. Since the last 3 editions, each team has its own meeting place somewhere on the itinerary but we all spend some time to present ourselves, to explain how it works to the new volunteers.

The majority of the homeless we meet agree to answer the questions. Sometimes, the interview is very short, sometimes it is an occasion to discuss a little more. Each time it is a special moment. This year, with my team, we discussed with a man in his forties who had been homeless for several years after losing his job, who went in a shelter a few days, who sleeps in squats or on a bench close to a public garden. He told us about how he organises his day, which are the NGOs he goes to and for what. He is registered on the waiting list for social housing but has not received a proposal yet. And all the time he never complained about his condition and kept hoping that things would go better some day.

This Friday night street count is the last event of the week dedicated to the homeless count. During the whole week, different teams of the Solidarity and Social Cohesion Department of Toulouse Metropole went in the squats and illegal camps during the day to fill in the questionnaires. This has been possible through the partnership with the NGOs and collectives of residents who have established a relationship of trust with the homeless in these places. To complete the data, the Integrated Reception and Guidance Service provides also information concerning all the homeless actually in shelters and in hotels.
This annual experience is important to me. It gives meaning to my work and to the ROOF project.

Dominique Fievez (participates in the ROOF project for the municipality of Toulouse Métropole)