“The previous government failed to keep its promise of ‘zero homeless children.’ There are even more today. It’s unacceptable,” according to Adeline Hazan, the president of UNICEF France. Almost 2,000 children were left without accommodation across the country during the night of August 21-22 after their families had managed to call the 115 emergency number, a fifth survey of the situation of children living on the streets, published on Wednesday, August 30, revealed. The study was carried out by the United Nations’ agency and France’s Fédération des Acteurs de la Solidarité (FAS), a body gathering around 900 organizations active in social work.
The number is on the rise. With around 1,990 children currently on the streets, this is more than double the number seen on January 31, 2022, 17% more than on August 22, 2022, and, above all, 56% more than on January 30, 2023, when the French government had increased the number of emergency accommodations to an unprecedented 205,000. The number of single homeless women with children has also risen sharply, by 46% over a year. “And even then, these are minimal estimates, which do not consider unaccompanied minors or families who are unable to contact the 115, or no longer even try, discouraged by refusals,” said Pascal Brice, the president of FAS.
On the ground, the picture is even bleaker. In Lyon, the teachers’ and parents’ association Jamais Sans Toit (Never Without a Roof), which defends homeless children, is faced with a situation that has not been seen since its creation in 2014. “Families sheltered in winter are no longer systematically sheltered in the spring, even though the law provides continuity of emergency accommodation. For example, 80 families were put back on the street on August 7, with children as young as three years old,” said Raphaël Vulliez, the founding member of Jamais sans toit. “In total, 395 homeless children were counted in Lyon, three times as many as the previous summer. Infants, families with serious health issues, and pregnant women are among them.”
Around 20 households began occupying the Bellecombe gym in Lyon at the end of June, hoping to be quickly sheltered. Almost all of them remain without a solution less than a week before the start of the new school year. Associations with similar goals to Jamais Sans Toit have been set up or consolidated in some 15 other cities across France. Some have hosted homeless families in schools or private homes or organized fundraising to pay for hotel nights.
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