The ‘Night of Solidarity’: The army of volunteers who count Paris’s homeless

Volunteers take part in the Night of Solidarity in Paris on January 30, 2020.
Volunteers take part in the Night of Solidarity in Paris on January 30, 2020. © Guillaume Guguen / Sam Ball / France 24

Every year, some 2,000 volunteers and state workers spend the night walking the streets of Paris to make a survey of the number of people sleeping rough in the French capital. For those who give up their free time to contribute, it can be an eye opening experience.

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The scheme, called “Nuit de la Solidarité” (Night of Solidarity) is now in its third year and was started as a way to keep track of Paris’s homeless in order to provide them with better social services.

Volunteers work in small groups with an experienced team leader. Each group has a designated area to survey, which often sees them working long into the night.

They record not only how many people sleeping rough they come across, but also information such as their gender, age and family situation using detailed questionnaires.

FRANCE 24 followed one team as they surveyed a section of the 15th arrondissement (district) in the south of Paris to find out how and why this army of volunteers undertakes this mammoth task.

“It was a powerful human experience,” said volunteer Vincent Bernard. “You realise to what extent people in Paris live in really precarious situations."

 

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