A small room resembling a student residence, located between offices and meeting rooms, a few steps from the famous Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris. This is where Tammy, who only a few months ago was sleeping on the street, now spends his nights.
By evening, this young Ethiopian had a roof over his head: the head office of the Fondation de France, a network of charities. On the second floor, in a normally unused room of about fifteen square metres, the staff provided him with a single bed and a desk where he could follow his French lessons.
“The first night I was afraid, but now I am happy to be here,” the young man with political refugee status smiles shyly.
Like Tammy, 260 people suffering from poor housing have found a temporary base for two years thanks to the Bureaux du Cœur association, which was created in 2021.
Throughout France, more than a hundred companies lend them one of their rooms, usually a conference room.
After work hours, they can sleep there, shower and prepare food.
“When I put this idea to my colleagues, it was immediately a big yes,” says Anna Jardin-Leveque, president of Handical, a call center that employs people with disabilities.
Since July, I have been participating in the Bureaus du Cœur system. Two young men were housed in succession in one of its offices in Etampes in the Paris region.
The former remained there for five months, while completing his apprenticeship. After getting a job, he left his folding bed in the conference room and moved to the young workers' hostel.
Six months maximum
In fact, all resident persons must participate in the search for work and housing. This is an indispensable condition established by the Association, which also sets the maximum duration of reception at six months.
To reassure companies, participants must not suffer from addiction or mental disorders. They also do not have the right to invite people to the places loaned to them.
“In 90% of cases, things go well,” confirms Juliette Budd, a Parisian volunteer at Bureaux du Cœur. “The biggest fear businesses have is knowing what to do if there is a problem. It is rare but it has happened before and we simply interrupted the welcome.
“A person in need wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot by disrespecting the building,” agrees Anna Jardin-Leveque.
Of the twenty people currently residing in Paris, three are women, as Juliette Budd explains: “They are definitely a minority because in this age group, they often have dependent children,” which makes them ineligible for this particular reception.
Although most of the participating companies are SMEs, not all of them are part of the social and solidarity economy like Handikal: “We recently signed with a large group of agro-food industries, for example,” the volunteer attests.
The conditions for becoming a hosting company are very simple: you have a room where a sofa bed can be installed, an adjoining toilet and a space with a refrigerator and a microwave.
We also need to convince the insurance companies, because the usual contract does not stipulate that people will be received outside working hours. “When she called me, he thought the project was great and I got an agreement within twelve hours,” laughs Anna Jardin-Leveque.
Everyone realizes that this system is not a miracle cure for homelessness. But “cardio offices could be part of the equipment that allows us to go a little further,” hopes Thierry Ployart, responsible for ergonomics at the France Foundation.
“Total coffee aficionado. Travel buff. Music ninja. Bacon nerd. Beeraholic.”