The homeless people of Rue de la Banque have won / English Txt

Massimo A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at
Fri Dec 21 21:12:15 GMT 2007

Right to Housing, 24 Rue de la Banque 75002 Paris
Tel: 01 42 78 22 00 Fax: 01 42 78 22 11 email: dal at

Paris, 16 December 2007

Details and commentary on the victory at Rue de la Banque

The homeless people of Rue de la Banque have won:

An agreement has been signed on Friday, the 14th of December for the
rehousing of the 374 homeless families at Rue de la Banque between the
Ministry of Housing and the City, and the organisations (Right to
Housing: DAL; Committee of the Homeless: CDSL; and Committee for
Action on Housing: CAL) with the representatives of homeless people.

These 374 families represent 1500 people, including 900 children. The
state will be involved in housing everyone within a year, which will
satisfy the criteria of the Irrevocable Right to Housing (DALO).

The 143 families who participated in the movement since the 3rd of
October will be rehoused quickly, then there will be homes for the two
other groups. During the waiting period, available shelter must be
maintained. The rehousing is the responsibility of the State,
particularly of the Prefecture of Paris. It will consist of stable
social housing, through the prefecture, but could be obtained through
other departments (1% housing : a law requiring employers at companies
with at least 10 staff members to contribute 1% to their housing
costs, regional municipalities, social housing , and by the creation
of transitional housing. The ministry of housing will be required to
organisise a meeting before the 21st of December with the various
agencies responsible for housing to organise this rehousing process,
and must meet again shortly with the delegation of Rue de la Banque.
The follow up meetings will take regularly, and at least on a monthly

The government has tried hard to break ties with local organisations.
This includes a last-minute order to shut down the camp, but this was
a clear loss. Those in the struggle at Rue de la Banque have won, not
only for themselves, but for also for the thousands of others who are
homeless and vulnerably housed.

The agreement stipulates:

In order to speed up the rehousing process for the families on Rue de
la Banque, as well as for those in a similar situation, the State will
involve other government bodies in the response to the need for social
housing, beyond the municipal level. Acknowledging the demonstrated
need for housing, it will, in effect, have recourse to:

-the solicitation of housing applications from other groups, both
within the municipality of Paris or other municipalities in France,
from the 1% or from social housing

-the making available for occupation, temporary housing which is
currently vacant, and which belongs either to the State or to the
municipality of Paris, or to other relevant government bodies.
-the use of the private rental park, applying the British model of
'temporary housing'

-the making available, on a temporary level, of vacant social housing
(because of ANRU demolition and reconstruction programs, or for any
other reason)

These new forms of housing have the ultimate goal of replacing
hotels--which are degrading, costly and unsafe, and inappropriate
housing environments such as gyms, emergency shelters, and homes
lacking decent housing facilities. These are the forms of precarious
existence in which those who are excluded in the housing market are
trapped, as are those who live in slums, in their car, campsites,
mobile homes, shantytowns, or under threat of eviction. This is the
first step towards responding to the demand of '100 000 housing units
immediately; it's possible!'.

This agreement is the result of a long struggle, in the face of brutal
repression. The reserve guards and the national Guard intervened 7
times to break up the camp; they created a siege over 15 days and 14
nights, without interruption, like nothing seen since the 80's. Each
time, the families returned, more determined than ever, despite the
violence and terrifying intimidation. Their determination, their
courage, and their refusal to be divided have been the principal cause
of this success. They have brought on board a greater and greater
section of pulic opinion despite the odds being stacked against them.

The reality is that since the beginning of July when it took office,
the authorities sent the police to intimidate and repress the campers
and inhabitants of the shantytowns. This repression was the subject of
the Don Quixote theatre company's outdoor production; the weekend's
victory was the result of their attempt to spread awareness. In
addition to the police repression, the Ministry of Housing denigrated
the families by pretending that they had already found housing, and
accused DAL of using homeless people as pawns; they also accused the
celebrities and artists who supported the struggle of 'media antics'.
The cold, the rain and the wind could not convince them.

It is at this price that those without a roof over their heads
obtained the commitment of the Ministry of Housing, at the same time
that the government acknowledged that they could not break the will of
the homeless mothers, as it was they who lead and directed the
movement. The support of artists and celebrities had equal weight in
the decision of the government to really negotiate. For example, the
meeting with Sarkozy was arranged by Carole Bouquet (with the 'voice
of a child'); the support of the Socialist Party was obtained by
Josiane Balasko (does the Left care?). Celebrities such as Emmanuelle
BĂ©art, Roman Bohringer, Guy Bedos, Joe Star, etc. drew the attention
of the media.

The support of organisations, trade unions and political parties,
movements active on 5 continents, ordinary citizens (and they have
been numerous) has equally been decisive.

The struggle continues:

The families and DAL thank all those who have contributed, in one way
or another, by a simple gesture or a long-term engagement, to win this
progress. DAL, CDSL, CAL and the homeless people will remain vigilant
so that this agreement will be respected. This constitutes immediate,
real progress towards making the DALO legislation more substantial.

Over the next few days, the homeless people at Rue de la Banque will
hold a general assembly, the support committees will meet, as well as
the organisations of the Ministry of the Housing Crisis, to wrap up
and to evaluate the situation, to organise the follow-up and to begin
new initiatives to work together.

In effect, this victory does not solve the causes of the housing
crisis, it just opens up a path to respond to some of the effects of
this crisis. Considering the housing measures announced by Nicolas
Sarkozy, it is possible that the situation will get worse, and this
time for the greatest number of people.

Stay vigilant, and we are still counting on you to support the
realization of the right to housing for all.

Paris, Sunday, 16th of December.

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