LA CLOCHE, a not-for-profit association founded in 2014, works to change the way people view the world of the streets. It encourages people with and without homes to do things together to build a more inclusive society. Established in a number of major cities in France (Paris, Lille, Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseille), LA CLOCHE is also the driving force behind the Chime network, which operates in seven countries (Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, the UK and the USA). Almayuda supports LA CLOCHE in its bid to replicate itself around France.
According to the figures compiled by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) and the Abbé Pierre Foundation, there were 300,000 homeless people in 2020 (50% more than in 2012!). Of these, 45% were women and 10% minors. These figures encompass a range of different situations, as a quarter of these people were in work and not all of them were living on the streets thanks to homeless shelters and emergency accommodation. The paradox lies in the fact that whereas 83% of homeless people say they suffer from rejection from passers-by, 94% of citizens state that they want to take action to combat the widespread exclusion (BVA/Emmaüs: Ticket for Change & Occurrence Study).
LA CLOCHE is the product of this evident contradiction and of beliefs shared with major associations working to tackle homelessness, among them the Collectif des Morts de la Rue, which states “when you are on the street, you do not die of hunger or cold but from isolation’; and the International Movement ATD Fourth World, which confirms this, saying, “social connection and a change in views are just as important as material assistance”.
Forging a bond between citizens
To establish connections, LA CLOCHE brought together citizens – the excluded and unexcluded alike – professionals working on the ground, beginning with shopkeepers and bar and restaurant owners, companies and the public authorities in order to run three programmes: Le Carillon, Les Clochettes and La Cloche à Biscuits.
Le Carillon is LA CLOCHE’s early initiative, its most significant and most readily replicated programme. It brings into direct contact two publics, often presented as opposed to each other: shopkeepers and bar and restaurant owners on the one hand and the homeless on the other. More than a thousand of the first group have signed up, in particular bar and restaurant owners, and demonstrate their support and membership of the programme by sticking up the programme’s logo with pictograms below it indicating the services they provide free of charge to the homeless: mobile phone charging, a glass of water, use of the toilets, use of the Wi-Fi service, printing or photocopying official documents, reheating food in the microwave, storage for personal belongings, etc.
Les Clochettes encompasses a multitude of urban, civic and green initiatives: shared gardens, urban farms, wall frescos, etc. Based on the same logic as Le Carillon, Les Clochettes offers a space open to all where manual activities provide an occasion for social connection. There are no prerequisites for taking part other than a wish to do something with others. The relationships that arise from joint efforts to better the appearance of the neighbourhood and to protect or improve the environment lead naturally to opportunities of all kinds such as jobs, accommodation and friendship.
La Cloche à Biscuits was founded in Paris and is part of the Dispositif Premières Heures system of financial support provided by the local authority for proposed activities suited to vulnerable and excluded people. Making ‘homemade’ biscuits within a responsible framework using organic ingredients enables participants to learn a trade, to acquire new skills and, for some, to reintegrate into the world of work. But it is also, and perhaps primarily, a space of inclusion and goodwill where, as one of the programme beneficiaries puts it, “I make biscuits with pleasure, but I also come here because it raises my spirits, because people smile…”
Replication in France and abroad
Like all the projects run by LA CLOCHE, La Cloche à Biscuits is intended to be replicable, even if not in exactly the same form. The aim of La Cloche à Biscuits, for example, is that it will be offered by the association’s regional branches as inclusive cookery workshops.
As there are no borders or limits to urban poverty, the model begun by LA CLOCHE is, sadly, intended to lead to spin-offs with adaptations to other contexts. Begun in Paris, it has now spread to Lille, Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseille. And other launches are envisaged in Dijon, Montpellier, Reims, Rouen, Tours, Nice and elsewhere, either as direct initiatives or as social franchises with associations already on the ground. It is this effort that is being supported by the Almayuda Foundation.
At an international level, LA CLOCHE is the driving force behind the Chime network, which is active in Brussels, London, Madrid, Prague, Seattle and elsewhere, a total of eighteen towns and cities in seven different countries (2021 figures). The general scheme, irrespective of adaptations to national or local circumstances, is always based on donations and charity work, beginning with that of the people directly involved, many of them among the volunteers. Regardless of borders, changing people’s views and working together remain the shared goals that the health crisis has made even more difficult to translate on a daily basis into a reality. How can we bring people closer together when social and physical distancing have become the rule?
Happily, LA CLOCHE can call on its media – internet radio, newssheet and podcasts – in which people living on the street can have their say. And activities, events, training and initiatives of every kind provide opportunities for creating a sense of connection: choirs, urban walks, breakfasts, fairs, theatre events, dance, cookery, grassroots forums for philosophical discussion, etc. Special mention must also be made of T’as pas 5 minutes ? (You Haven’t Got Five Minutes, Have You?), an initiative run in 2020 with a nod to the famous T’as pas 100 balles ? (You Haven’t Got a Hundred Francs, Have You?). Based on Quizz, it is used to break down prejudices and to inform while encouraging people to become involved.
The last word must go to a person speaking on behalf of those on the street: “When you’re all together, nobody knows who’s who, who has a home and who doesn’t.”