Meet Alexandre. For the past four years, Alexandre has been homeless on the streets of Paris. For a while, he found safety and security in a social housing estate, but after the building was sold, he had nowhere else to turn.

While designing for the Sheltersuit x Chloe collaboration in Paris, we took to the streets simultaneously to learn and understand the needs of this city. Before the full economic effects of Covid were truly felt by the City of Light, over 3,500 unsheltered people sought refuge on its streets.* Their tents and makeshift beds were largely ignored by passers-by.

The homeless population in France is believed to have risen to around 300,000—double the number in 2012—and is likely to increase further due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis. A new surge in figures is feared on April 1, 2021, which marks the official start of spring evictions. French law prevents landlords from evicting tenants during the winter months.

*(Financial Times, 2020)

 
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Meet Alexandre. For the past four years, Alexandre has been homeless on the streets of Paris. For a while, he found safety and security in a social housing estate, but after the building was sold, he had nowhere else to turn.

Many years ago, Alexandre was a mariner who traveled around the world.

“I didn’t care much for New York or London… Rotterdam, I loved it! But, Paris is my home, this is where my heart is.”

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Alexandre
“I’d give everything I own for a room, but please leave me my cat.”
– Alexandre
 
Meet Blanche, Alexandre’s greatest love. By day, Blanche perches on Alexandre’s shoulder, surveying their city and by night, curls up on the safety of his stomach.
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“I’m not a big sleeper, I used to sleep maybe 2 hours. But now, with Corona, Paris is deserted at nighttime. I play with my cat for a while and then we sleep until 9 am.”

Alexandre goes to great lengths to create a refuge for himself and Blanche for the night. In the late evening, he collects around seven bins from the sides of the street. Using cardboard, fencing, blankets, and an old suitcase for a mattress, he ingeniously creates a temporary place of safety.

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“At 8 o’clock, every night, I return here. I put the cardboard on the floor. After that my baggage, the cat, the containers. After I do that, this is my room. This is my place.”
– Alexandre
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Floodlights are being installed at Alexandre’s old sleeping spot.

Not long ago, Alexandre used to sleep next to his car, but the company who owned the neighbouring building hired a security guard to discourage setting up any form of temporary overnight shelter.

Whilst learning of his life as an unsheltered Parisian, a technician arrived to install bright security floodlights as an added measure to chase away any homeless person who might seek shelter in the vicinity of their property.

DSCF5144-2-2-1536x1024Blanche hides from the rain in their car.

 

Carefully tucked away, Alexandre shared one of his prized possessions with us, a beautiful Klimt.

Emotionally stirring, this juxtapose – the delicate symbolism of Klimt’s “The Kiss” and an unsheltered Parisian whose wealth lies in the appreciation of good art and a cat named Blanche.

“Someone told me this painting is worth millions… isn’t that something? I am homeless, but I keep it close right here.”

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Alexandre and his Kilmt
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As a community, we can continue to provide local entrepreneurs and humanitarians the necessary tools to empower them to multiply the Sheltersuit Effect and our shared global mission that every person, no matter where they are from, has the right to protection.

We are, and will always be, people helping people.

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Alexandre and Shasho
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