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The fight continues every day with a smile, a “hello” motto of “Un Cado Pour Un Charclo”

Arthur Berthault, a Master student at IÉSEG School of Management, created the association “Un cado pour un charclo” (a gift for a tramp) in 2015. His aim was to create a social bond between people by distributing gifts during Christmas time to the 3,000 homeless in Lille.

Today, 4 million people are homeless, poorly housed, or without a personal housing in France. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of beggars rose by 50%, with a total of 15 million people affected by the housing crisis (Abbé Pierre Foundation).

There has been an estimated 3,000 homeless people in Lille. For those who live in Lille, it is impossible to ignore them; they are a part of the city.

Volunteers for Un Cado pour un Charclo bringing a gift to a homeless person in Lille, 24/12/2017

Before starting “Un Cado por un Charclo,” Arthur passed in front of Etienne every morning on the way to school. At first, Arthur was embarrassed and a little annoyed, so he treated Etienne as if he were invisible. However, after realizing that Etienne was there everyday, Arthur began to slowly form a bond with Etienne, saying “hi” every now and then. One day, he went to a bakery to get a sandwich. While there, he decided to buy one for Etienne, too. Later on, after realizing that he, as well as many of his friends, had tons of clothes that they didn’t wear, Arthur decided to offer some to Etienne. Etienne was deeply moved; he hugged Arthur and thanked him many times. Arthur thought, “Today, it is like Christmas for him!” This event was the stimulus that motivated Arthur to help homeless people like Etienne and change the views other people had towards them.

Hence, he created the Facebook page “Un Cado pour un Charclo” in December, 2015, whose goal was to collect gifts and distribute them during Christmas time to the 3,000 tramps in Lille. In just a week, the page received great success, with 15,000 likes, 8,000 shares, and 600 comments on its posts.

The objective of distributing 3,000 gifts was reached, thanks to the invaluable help of the 200 volunteers who came to prepare, wrap, and distribute the gifts on D-Day. The gifts combined “utility and pleasure,” says Arthur, with chocolates, small tents, gloves, hats, and mini radios included amongst the presents, all of them aimed towards improving the daily life of tramps.

The event was such a success that Arthur decided to create an association to continue the goodwill. He also decided to expand the scope of the action by organizing a water distribution to beggars during the especially hot summer of 2016.

Stored gifts for Un Cado pour un Charclo in Lille, 23/12/2016

During the Christmas of 2016, Nantes joined forces: a group of students from Audencia Business School also organised a collection and distribution of gifts for tramps in their city. The bet was successful. This year, Bordeaux is joining the movement too. “It is like a franchise: we share the same values, the same vision, the same will”, confides Arthur with enthusiasm, “other cities have contacted us, but we want to take our time, to do a good job little by little”, he adds.

Year by year, the association evolves. Since 2016, “greeting cards are slipped inside the gifts so as to personalize them” says Arthur. Moreover, the number of collecting points for gifts is rising: this year, 10 volunteers are opening their house for givers to bring their gifts. The collection points are located in cities around Lille to allow everyone willing to participate to be able to, in a convenient way. Furthermore, a crowdfunding page has been opened for people who cannot reach collection points to still be able to participate in the adventure. The funds will be used to wrap papers, prints posters in the collection points, and offer coffee to the generous people passing by to give a gift.

Group of volunteers for Un Cado pour un Charclo in Lille, 24/12/2016

In parallel, Un Cado pour un Charclo tries to change the look people have on hobos. The association organized a conference at IESEG School of Management to show “Au bord du monde” (At the edge of the world), a movie that dives into the life of tramps in Paris, and after which one is not undisturbed. The realisator, Claus Drexel, was there to answer the audience’s questions.

The expansion of the association in different cities and the increase in the human help it receives shows that the look of people is evolving: “We are facilitators of encounters between different audiences”, “our aim is to break etiquettes, reduce stigmatisation, put people first”, affirms Arthur.

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Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV

Photos credit: Fanny Coumau