French homeless camps to disband

8th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) - Organisers of a series of tent encampments in cities across France announced an end to their protest Monday in response to government promises of help for the homeless including a legally enforceable new right to housing.

PARIS, Jan 8, 2007 (AFP) - Organisers of a series of tent encampments in cities across France announced an end to their protest Monday in response to government promises of help for the homeless including a legally enforceable new right to housing.

"A radical change of policy towards the homeless and the certainty that an enforceable right to housing will soon be adopted ... have persuaded us that it is time to move on from the immediate crisis," said Augustin Legrand, 31 year-old founder of "The Children of Don Quixote" campaigning group.

Last month the group pitched 200 small tents along a canal in central Paris, inviting the capital's residents to sleep rough for a night as a gesture of support. Smaller camps followed in Marseille, Orleans, Lyon, Strasbourg, Toulouse and elsewhere.

With France entering a feverish pre-election period, the protest received widespread media attention, prompting politicians of all stripes to vow urgent action to tackle the problem of homelessness.

In a New Year's address to the nation President Jacques Chirac called for an enforceable right to housing to be written into the law, and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has since said a bill will be presented to the cabinet next week.

On Monday -- in what appeared to be an announcement coordinated with "The Children of Don Quixote" -- Social Cohesion Minister Jean-Louis Borloo also outlined plans to create 27,100 new emergency housing places in 2007.

"Every person taken in by a relief shelter will be offered a permanent solution, according to his or her particular situation," Borloo said.

France has an estimated 100,000 homeless people, according to advocacy groups, and their presence is very visible on the streets of Paris and other cities. In addition some 900,000 are reckoned to live in campsites, hotels and shelters while two million have sub-standard housing.

Of the two main contenders for the presidential election in April, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy -- of the ruling centre-right -- said he would take steps so that "in two years no-one is forced to sleep on the pavement and die of cold."

His rival, the Socialist Segolene Royal, spoke to Legrand by telephone on three occasions. In a speech last week she promised state action to ensure 120,000 subsidised housing units, which she said right-wing municipal councils had failed to build despite being obliged to do so.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article