Help, I Need Somebody

photo: aux amateurs, boulogne
November sun heats Boulogne bistro until
Beaujolais Nouveau Day.

Down, But Mostly Out In Paris

Paris:- Sunday, 22. November 1998:- A homeless man aged 36, who was sleeping outside on a porch, a few steps from the entry to the Cochin Hospital, died Friday morning of exposure.

Overnight, the temperature in Paris had fallen to minus four. The man was found, still alive at 9:30 Friday morning, by a friend. Worried about his condition, the buddy alerted the emergency section of the hospital, only a few steps away.

A minute later, a hospital employee passed and seeing the man in distress on the porch, called the emergency services. This employee later indignantly told Le Parisien that she was told hospital personal were not permitted to leave the hospital grounds to 'look for ill people in the street.'

Another passerby called the Pompiers. Finally the hospital sent out an emergency doctor and a stretcher-bearer, who arrived after the emergency crew from the Pompiers.

By then, the homeless man was dead.

A Little Bit of Shelter

Supposedly, to get a bed for a night all one has to do is dial '115.' Libération tried it during the week and the result was not reassuring.

There are about 40 emergency housing centres in Paris; run by different aid groups. But the semi-official 'Samu-sociale' has the monopoly on cruising the capital to pick up the homeless, and it runs the toll-free '115' number.

According to the paper, seven work the phones on the dayshift and three take care of them at night. If therescan: le republique issue1 are more than three calls at once, the automatic answer- machine tells the fourth caller to ring later.

In a test, during the daytime, only eight percent of calls made connections to live people. The homeless are aware of this; aware of the fact that a non-connection can mean sleeping outside.

Paris' new daily paper, La République, appeared on Tuesday, 17. November.

Since the maximum stay allowed in any centre is only three days, on leaving, some homeless head straight to telephone booths to try and secure their next bed.

TV-news showed a Samu crew cruising around Paris one evening. They had a regular route and some of the homeless were familiar customers to them. They picked up those they could; and gave what they had to those who preferred to stay where they were.

The Abbé-Pierre Foundation says that there are 15,000 available emergency beds for the homeless in France, and the number of homeless is 100,000. The managers of the Samu-social in Paris say their efforts directed 157,333 people towards their services last year.

In addition to emergency shelter, there are supposed to be a third of a million places available to people in difficulty. These have the aim of setting the temporarily unlucky back on their feet - but their efficiency beyond mere housing is in doubt.

In any case, there are those who decline the offer. These are the young, the mentally disturbed and the hard-core outsiders - or people who do not want to part with their dogs.

Cold Weather Is Here

Late in the week a cold front - blamed on Greenland, and sometimes on Sweden - moved into the Paris area. This sent overnight lows down to minus two to six, with daytime highs from zero to plus two. These temperatures are expected to continue into next week.

The situation in eastern France was more dramatic, with snow, black-ice and freezing fog causing chaos to highway transport, and general misery. Temperatures dumped to minus 26 in Switzerland and even northern Italy was hit with lows of minus 20. Temperatures in Paris are about five degrees below normal.

Le Pen Loses Appeal In Versailles

Convicted of an assault during election campaigning in 1997, Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen heard the judgement confirmed by the Appeals Court in Versailles on Tuesday, but the penalty was reduced.

If he does not take his case the final step to the Court of Cassation, he will be liable for a three months' suspended jail term, and a 5000 franc fine; which was reduced from 20,000 francs. In addition, he is ineligible to hold political office for a year.

The conviction, as it stands, will make Le Pen ineligible to re-run for next year's round of the European elections. The affairs of his party are in some disarray, and one commentator said something like the Front National was one party in France which seldom missed when shooting itself in a foot.

The State Closes Cigarette Factories

Last week it was announced that the French government intended to close three state-owned cigarette plants, all located in small towns.

Since then, the citizens of these towns have mobilized and on Thursday they marched in Paris. Their numbers were not great, but they got their photo in Le Parisien and on TV-news.

Especially in Morlaix, there is a very long tradition of working with tobacco products; and the Ministry of Economics and Finance was talking about 'other solutions.'

This story was in Le Parisien a lot during the week and on Tuesday space in the paper was also devoted to a story about how consumption cannabis has become 'common' among adolescents.

A study says half of the 15 to 19 age group have consumed something illegal, and in 98 percent of the cases, it was pot. It is not believed in France that weed smoking leads directly to heroin addiction - which is not rising - but all the same, the penalties for possession are heavy.

Researchers do think pot smokers drink too much, take too many tranquilizers and smoke too many cigarettes as well.

While we are on demos, I may as well mention that the police has their protest march in Paris on Wednesday. According to the organizers, 20,000 police personnel marched; only 5,600 according to the prefecture's head-counters. The police around France are upset about the planned closur of many local police stations.


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