About sixty homeless people have lived for a year and a half in apartments near Lausanne train station. In a report published this week, Lausanne University of Social Work calls for the model to be developed as an alternative to emergency accommodation.
A stone’s throw from Lausanne train station, a building on Rue du Simplon has for a year and a half been home to an unprecedented cohabitation between 44 students and 56 homeless people. The utility loan contract binds the Association for Housing of Young People Under Education (ALJF) and CFF, owners of the building, sentenced to disappear due to the expansion work of the station.
Nicolae, a father and former homeless man who participated in this extraordinary experience, lives in a three-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor. A real gift from heaven, as he explains at 7.30pm. “We come home whenever we want. We go out whenever we want. We cook whenever we want. It’s almost like our own apartment.”
Like Nicolae, Valentin (assumed name) was able to send his child to school after finally finding a place to live. “When my son was on the road, he could not go to school. He had a very hard time sleeping. It is not like here. He is quiet, he eats, he is clean. When he goes to school, the others do.” “I do not see him as a Roma, a gypsy or a foreigner. He is seen as the others, whereas when he is on the move, people make a difference.”
Crowded emergency stays
This housing initiative was launched two years ago thanks to Sleep-In, one of the two emergency homes in Lausanne, which are often overcrowded.
“We reject people every day,” confirms Leonardo Carriero, social worker at the Sleep-In Association in Lausanne. Before you add: “The reception at Sleep-In is quite rudimentary: we open from 21:00 to 9:00. We offer sharing rooms, with all the difficulties it entails. It’s not a life to live in a shelter. Some people work, they have children, so the idea of the Rue du Simplon project was to find stability for these people. “
A goal achieved, Nicolae testifies, even though the pandemic came to play spoilsport: “Thanks to this opportunity, I found work. I worked for almost eight months. So because of this Covid, I lost my job.”
Like him, many have residence permits and go on temporary assignments. However, their income is often insufficient and their situation too unstable to access the housing market. In Rue du Simplon, the rent per adult is limited to 150 francs per month.
Housing first, focal point of socialization
For the research team commissioned by Sleep-In, which has just published, the experiment is crucial and proves that having an address is crucial in the socialization process. “Housing is a key element. It allows you to fit in, to have a family town, to take out health insurance,” emphasizes Hélène Martin, a professor at the University of Social and Health Work in Lausanne (HETSL).
Residents of the Rue du Simplon building must leave the premises within three weeks, otherwise they will be thrown out. [RTS]For the researcher, we can absolutely not be satisfied with the social emergency, “which is a policy that has the effect of chronicling homelessness”. And to call for the establishment of a housing policy first. “It has already been done in Europe: such a policy allows people to stabilize, put their children to school, get a job under better conditions, gain access to health insurance …”
But for the approximately 60 former homeless, this enchanting break on Rue du Simplon is coming to an end: the building owned by CFF will be demolished due to the forthcoming expansion work at Lausanne station.
Residents must leave the premises within three weeks or face eviction. Fearing that their horizons will darken again, some of them have formed a collective, “Le Peuple du Simplon”, to try to find a new roof and thus at all costs avoid finding themselves on the streets again. .
>> See also the debate in the Forum between Jean-Pierre Tabin, Professor of Social Policy at HES-SO, Kim Grootscholten, Director of the NGO “Toit pour tous”, Louise Trottet, Lausanne MP (The Greens), and Anne Hiltpold, Deputy Secretary General for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce:
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