On an ordinary day, some 3,500 people live outside on the streets of Paris, their tents and makeshift beds largely ignored by throngs of passers-by in the City of Light. To get by, they rely on a patchwork of services from charities and government, as well as begging for spare change or food. But these are not ordinary days. With France in its fourth week of coronavirus shutdown, the plight of homeless people in Paris has become acute with access to soup kitchens, public toilets and showers, and daytime shelters severely curtailed.
With streets quiet, there are fewer opportunities to ask for help or money, and shelters that could provide refuge bring with them the risk of infection. Police have ticketed or hassled street people who are breaking quarantine rules, despite them obviously having no place to go. “It’s more difficult for me now . . . everyone is afraid to give,” said Rahim, a 49 year-old who came to France from Morocco nine years ago and who begs for money in the north of the city. “I don’t have anywhere to sleep tonight.”