With her son curled up in her arms, Nancy sings a nursery rhyme in Fang, her mother tongue, learned in her country of origin, Gabon. His soft voice soothes the tears of Nathanaël who hit his head while playing. The scene resembles a banal moment in the daily life of a family. Except for one detail: Nancy and Nathanaël are not in their living room but on the sofa in the family home in Bordeaux. This place, located in the heart of the Gironde capital and of which the Apprentis d’Auteuil foundation and Secours catholique are partners, welcomes families in need during the day. While Secours catholique published its annual report on the state of poverty in France on Tuesday, November 14, the observation is clear: poverty is getting worse and women, particularly mothers, are on the front line. From now on, the share of women welcomed in 2022 by the association is largely the majority (57.5%). Among the households encountered by Secours catholique in 2022, a quarter are single-parent families and almost exclusively single mothers. Being a parent when you are in need is a real obstacle course.
Health before all
On a daily basis, the uncertainty of being able to feed your children and, for some households, sleep under a roof is the priority. “As long as my son has something to eat, that’s the main thing. For me, we’ll see later,” says Nancy. These daily deprivations are aggravated by the decline in purchasing power widely observed by Secours catholique, particularly in view of the galloping inflation of recent months. On average, people who requested help from the association in 2022 had 18 euros per day to meet all their needs, compared to almost 19.3 in 2021. Means often even lower when parents are without paper or awaiting regularization. In fact, this status keeps them away from employment or national solidarity mechanisms such as active solidarity income (RSA).
On the blue sofa in the games room of the family home, Nancy talks with a young Afghan mother: her infant is coughing but because she cannot be reimbursed by Social Security, she has only been able to buy one medication on both prescribed by the doctor. “The question of children’s health is very important, when we live in precarious conditions, our health deteriorates more quickly,” regrets Aurélie Mercier, head of the children and family center at Secours catholique. The cold and the humidity of sometimes unsanitary housing contribute greatly to this. The worry of not being able to provide for the children’s needs is sometimes coupled with a fear of judgment. “The conflation between poor parents and poor parents is often made and the look given to them by strangers in the street sometimes makes them feel,” regrets Aurélie. Hence the need for Karine Schoumaker, director of the Bordeaux family center “to remind every father or mother who knocks on our door that the perfect parent does not exist”.
In the frenzy of uncertain tomorrows, parents often create “protective bubbles” to protect their offspring. Sometimes tears are difficult to hold back but for Gemima, 25 years old, it is obvious: she must do everything to leave her little Eric, 2 years old, “in her world because (she) does not want him to feel (her ) sadness”. So, the one who arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2020, tries to hold on and stay calm. She is convinced: “the best is ahead of us!”