Special Report: French homeless seek refuge in offices
(Reuters) – The occupiers staked their claim to the building with pizza.
When the first of 16 families entered a vacant four-storey office block in Paris one night last December, they placed repeated food orders so the neighbors could see from the comings-and-goings of delivery men that the address was occupied. Under French law, witness accounts of residency make eviction harder.
But it was their next act that really had the building’s owner shaking his head in disbelief.
“What amazed me was when they invited in the housing minister a few days later,” said Spanish property developer Ignacio Lasa Georgas, who has temporarily lost control of his 7- million-euro ($9 million) office block between the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est railway stations.
“And over she came to give them her support.”
The squat at Number 2 rue de Valenciennes is both a political battleground and a symbol of France’s dysfunctional housing market. Activists helped the families move in to draw attention to how Europe’s second biggest economy, which prides itself on its welfare system, is struggling to provide basic shelter for many of its 65 million citizens. The problem is not unique to France, but the reasons for it are both aggravated by, and feed into, the country’s wider economic woes.