Launched in 2018 in Nantes, the Bureaux du Cœur association developed its activity in Paris in February 2022. Since then, three people have been accommodated thanks to the mobilization of business leaders. The principle: if a structure benefits from an isolated space, equipped with bed linen, toilets (with shower if possible) and a kitchenette, it can accommodate a homeless person outside office hours. What offer a person in a very precarious situation a roof but also privacy and security. Waiting to find a more permanent solution. Report in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, in the premises of the company Pragma 9, which opened its doors to Elnour, a Sudanese refugee who arrived in France two years ago.
It is a break room like you find in many companies in France. A kitchen corner, a table for lunch, a sofa, armchairs, a few plants to brighten up the space. A sliding door reveals a beautiful bathroom with walk-in shower and products arranged around the rim of the sink. One detail, only one, suggests a slightly more constant presence: slippers are stored under a bookcase. These are Elnour’s.
Elnour, a Sudanese refugee in his forties, says he was able to settle here three months ago thanks to the mobilization of Pragma 9, the consultancy that made his break room available to these “guest”as they say at the Bureaux du Cœur, the association that plays the role “intermediary between companies and future guests”explains Kinda Garman, responsible for the development and regional coordination of the Bureaux du Cœur.
A reinforced framework
It was Marie Prince, leader of Pragma 9, who immediately contacted the association after hearing about it during a television report. “I thought the idea was brilliant because it was very concrete”she says on the phone. “During the delivery we had already lent our building to care providers, so when I spoke about this new project with the management committee and then with our working group dedicated to CSR, everyone thought it was very good”explains the leader, confirming that this initiative is part of her company’s DNA. “Then things went really fast, we contacted the Offices of the Heart” and Elnour arrived.
For the occasion, the company has furnished the premises a little differently, making it “cozier”and what plants arranged like this “to show Elnour that he was expected and welcomed”† For their part, Pragma 9 employees have of course been informed of the arrival of this new guest. “Even though I didn’t have very specific questions about it, I reassured them by pushing for a very strong oversight of the Offices of the Heart’s approach”says Marie Prins. “The guests are not abandoned but followed and accompanied. This housing option is just the last piece in the building to help them integrate.”
A position confirmed by Hélène Rother, coordinator at France Horizon and privileged contact for Elnour who, despite his refugee status a year ago and his job in construction, is struggling to find accommodation.
“Being able to settle down, be calm and safe is very important for people, like Elnour, who are often housed in centers or in squats, without ever having privacy.”
Hélène Rother, coordinator at the France Horizon association
With Pragma 9, the instructions are clear: “We know that we will leave the break room to Elnour from 6 p.m. and all weekend”, underlines Géraldine Blamèble, the company’s general secretary. However, there are some occasions to meet, such as a farewell party organized a few days ago where the employees of the small structure were able to give the Sudanese a face.
But according to Marie Prince, her company’s commitment stops at hosting and human exchanges: “Initially, I wanted to provide a more complete framework to help you build your resume, but in a second step I told myself it wasn’t our role. It is up to us to welcome him in good conditions and leave him alone. That he does not feel obligated or obliged to anything. The most important thing for us is to guarantee him this notion of freedom.”
“We can only participate”
If the agreement between Elnour and the Bureaux du Cœur allows him to be hosted “three months renewable three times a month”Kinda Garman specifies, Marie Prince assures she will receive the Sudanese until he finds a more stable solution. Although she also confides in her “can’t wait for it to come out” to accommodate other people.
Because, faced with the services of a saturated 115, housing needs remain significant. The association, which would like to involve other companies, has tried to meet them. But today Kinda Garman has more “the belief that the idea must be carried from within by an involved person within its structure”.
For those who are still hesitant, Marie Prince believes that acting in this way is an opportunity, at a time when CSR is in the air, “to set up a very concrete action, because there is a real person behind it”† And to add: “We can only participate, mainly because it is so simple: we are joined by the Offices of the Heart and a lesser format than ours may suffice.”
The message has arrived. Now it’s your turn. The Bureaux du Cœur are present in some twenty cities in France. All information can be found on the association’s website.
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