France's new answer to youth crime: the building-less entry-hall

16th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

16 October 2007, LE HAVRE (AFP) - Authorities in the French port of Le Havre have found a bizarre way to solve the problem of urban delinquents hanging about in the entry-halls of blocks of flats: an entry-hall with no flats.

16 October 2007

LE HAVRE (AFP) - Authorities in the French port of Le Havre have found a bizarre way to solve the problem of urban delinquents hanging about in the entry-halls of blocks of flats: an entry-hall with no flats.

For several weeks a "false lobby" has been erected on a stretch of grass in Graville la Vallee, a poor neighbourhood of the northern city which houses some 1,500 people, mainly of immigrant extraction.

A red 12-metre (40-foot) metal shipping container has been furbished to create the illusion that it is the foyer of an apartment building, with door and windows, interphone, digicode, letter-boxes, false lift and a staircase leading to the roof.

The idea -- according to the city's social housing department -- is for youths to use it as their recreation area rather than real-life entry-halls, where many local people find them an intimidating presence.

"It's a bit unusual, I agree. But it's a way to respond to two demands: the public's need for peace and quiet, and the youngsters' need for a place to hang out," said Jean-Pierre Niot of the Le Havre Public Housing Office.

"Entry-halls should be places of conviviality, but the reality is that they become the focus for social tensions, and many tenants find them unbearable," he said.

Some locals praise the "false lobby" initiative as an imaginative answer to a pressing social need, but the response of most of its intended beneficiaries has been caustic.

"It's a ship's container -- for merchandise. We are not merchandise," said Medhy. For Kevin:  "It's a joke. They're trying to pack us like sardines into a tin." "There's nothing inside: no TV, no play-station, no seats. It's empty," said Oussama.

Le Figaro newspaper reported Tuesday that the buildingless entry-hall this weekend attained a new level of verisimilitude: it was vandalised.

AFP

Subject: French news

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