Asylum seeker Ibrahim looks at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart from his room at the Avenir Montmartre hotel in Paris. (Reuters photo)
PARIS: Normally, the Hotel Avenir Montmartre is a tourist attraction with its view of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacré-Coeur Basilica, but the Covid-19 has scared the regulars away. Instead, the hotel opened its doors to the homeless.
The hotel management has, a year ago, ceded their rooms to the Emmaüs Solidarity association for the homeless, which now uses them to welcome people who would otherwise be homeless.
Without his hotel room, Ibrahim, an asylum seeker from Mali, a West African country, would sleep in the kitchens of the restaurants where he works occasionally, or failing that, outside.
“When I had just arrived (in Paris), I didn’t know anyone. I moved around in temporary accommodation, sometimes I slept in the kitchen, or next to the trash,” he says.
“Some days I find a little job, and I earn around 40 €, 30 €, 50 € and I go out. When I find these jobs, I pay a hotel, which costs 30 €, to spend the night. But I can’t do this all my life. “
At the Hotel Avenir Montmartre, the cost of your room is covered by the association. Residents receive three meals a day in the hotel’s breakfast room and each room has a TV and a private shower room.
For the charity, the hotel provides a safe base from which they can try to help rebuild the lives of residents. The charity covers the costs with help from the government.
“Many residents suffer from physical or mental illnesses as a result of life on the streets and the trauma they have experienced,” said Bruno Morel, Director General of Emmaus.
“The charity aims to help them break the cycle of homelessness,” he said.
“The day I arrived, I said, great!” Ibrahim said of the hotel. “I see the future. The day will come when my life will change.”