Jean-Baptiste Eyraud, 68, could be retired. However, he still puts his body and soul into the Droit au logement (DAL) association which he co-founded in 1990 to help the poorly housed and homeless.
Poverty knows no rest either. In France, more than 9 million people live in very precarious conditions (with less than 1,102 euros per month for a single person). More than four million French people are poorly housed, including 300,000 living on the streets. The level of poverty is no longer falling. Worse, it extends to other social categories, like a part of the middle class, which is bearing the brunt of inflation and the deterioration of the labor market, after having endured the health crisis. . Between the poor and the very poor, precariousness competes with each other. And some like to stir up pain against a backdrop of political calculation. “The temptation to stigmatize poor people is increasingly strong,” warns Pascal Brice, president of the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FAS).
Refusal to admit defeat
“True charity does not consist of crying or simply giving, but of acting against injustice,” said Abbot Pierre.
Who today holds the torch of the black beret rebel? Pilgrim met men and women who, through their journey and their commitments, fully deserve to be among the heirs of the famous man of faith, even if none of them dares to designate themselves as such. Jean-Baptiste Eyraud, therefore, but also Romain Colucci, Coluche’s son, who became a volunteer within the Les Restos du coeur association created by his father; the director Frédéric Tellier, who brings the voice of the voiceless in his films; Fatima Parret, director of a center for asylum seekers (Cada) at Emmaus welcoming people whose applications have been refused; Emmanuelle Cosse, former Minister of Housing and now president of the Social Union for Housing (USH), which is investing in building social housing. Finally, Martine Le Corre, a long-time activist in the ATD Quart-Monde movement. Everyone refuses to admit defeat. They all carry a message of hope. Let’s listen to them.
Romain Colucci “At Restos du coeur, the time given to others is precious”
© Valentina Camu for The Pilgrim
Flying volunteer at Restos du coeur and son of Coluche, 51 years old
My father and Abbot Pierre were not content with nice words: they offered real solutions to disadvantaged people. What panache! Coluche greatly admired the Abbot who had shown him the path to action. I regularly travel across France to meet Restos du coeur volunteers. They too are driven by a certain revolt against poverty. This is what pushes them to get involved and give what they have most preciously: time. At Restos du coeur as at Emmaüs, we offer a human and effective response in the fight against precariousness and in this fight, volunteering is the most effective industrial force I know! With us, there is no community life, but we form a deep community of ideas and mutual aid. “We must not wage war against the poor but against poverty,” Abbé Pierre once said. He was obviously right, because behind the poverty figures, we must never forget that there are human beings. This is why we pay as much attention to people’s balanced diet as to their financial situation. At Restos du coeur and at Emmaüs, the people helped retain all their dignity.
This course of action has never changed thanks to the volunteers and donors who are committed and whom we need, more than ever.