Becot, bise, bisou: kisses in French on Valentine's Day
Etat des lieux + homeless in Aix-en-Provence

Homeless in France

Abbé Pierre's "holy anger" drove him to fight for the rights of those sans-toit, without a roof over their heads. Take a moment to read about this great Frenchman, and thank you for sharing this post with a friend.

Paris Monaco Rentals

France and Monaco Rentals: short-term holiday rental properties throughout France. Click here for pictures.

le (la) sans-abri (sahns-ahbree) noun, masculine & feminine
    : homeless person

"Sans-abri" means, literally, "without shelter"; les sans-abri = the homeless. 
=> SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) is also a term used for the homeless. Les SDF = The homeless


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

(This story is a re-run, in preparation for the next post...)

Day before yesterday, I watched and listened as the French mourned the death of their favorite personnage: l'Abbé Pierre, voted third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur.

"Abbot Peter" was the short priest with the long beard, the white-haired legend in the black beret, the former Resistance fighter in a dark cape who now clutched a bleached wood cane.

Like his appearance, Abbé Pierre, who once broke his vow of chastity, yielding to the force of desire, was a man of contrasts. Humble and soft-spoken, he was driven by a "holy anger" and known for his passionate outbursts when speaking for the homeless. He once told Jean-Marie Le Pen to "shut up!" (Ta gueule!) after the president of the National Front implied that all of France's ills stemmed from immigration.

His beliefs were sometimes unorthodox, as he felt that priests should be able to marry, that gays should be able to adopt, and that women should be able to be ordained. Above all, Abbé Pierre believed in the homeless and their unspeakable living conditions; caring for the sans-abri* would be his life's mission.

While [ex] President Chirac was said to be bouleversé* by Abbé Pierre's death, it was the thoughtful words of a homeless man that touched me the most as I listened to the midday news: "Sa mort, ça me fait plus mal que la morsure du froid," his death, it hurts me more than frostbite."

Frostbite and hunger were on Abbé Pierre's agenda, made famous in 1954 when he stole into a radio station and demanded the microphone. It was a murderous winter for the homeless in Paris and an old woman had just been found frozen to death on the Boulevard de Sebastopol, an eviction notice still in her hand. Reaction to Abbé Pierre's outcry was overwhelming and the French, both rich and poor, responded with blankets, coats, heaters and money as well as with rice, pasta, bread, chocolate and canned food. Charlie Chaplin (exiled in Paris at the time and made famous for his character the "Little Tramp") handed over many thousands of francs, with the explanation "the money belongs to the vagabond I portrayed".

It was in 1949 that Abbé Pierre founded the Emmaus Society with the idea to "travailler avec des pauvres pour des pauvres" to work with the poor for the poor. The poor that were to become his followers were also known as the "Ragpickers" by reason of the junk that they collected, organized and now sold in open-to-the-public warehouses throughout France. For this, Abbé Pierre was sometimes referred to as the "ragpickers' saint".

Activist for the poor for more than five decades, at 5:25 a.m. on January 22nd, at the age of 94, Abbe Pierre's light went out, when he died in Paris after being hospitalized for a lung infection. The feisty yet humble Frenchman had requested that the following words be written on his tomb:

                               "Il a essayé d'aimer." ("He Tried to Love.")

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Soupe Populaire soup kitchen in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
Waiting for a hot meal in Paris. The sign says "Help us if you can." To comment, click here.

les sans-abri (mf) = the homeless
boulversé(e) = deeply upset

The Abbé Pierre has tackled in France the problems of homeless people in a new way. First he bought a house and sheltered a few down-and-out men. Then he organized his ragpickers, combed the dust-bins and the dumps, and then the sewers, and sold the salvage. He bought land, put up huts; bought more land, till he had housed 180 families; the scheme is growing daily. He has now achieved a responsible community of workers in which the poor help the poor. This is not a sociological blueprint but a gripping human story of the lives he has saved.
--from the book Abbé Pierre and the Ragpickers of Emmaus

Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word and read the French headlines -- from the journal "l'Orient Le Jour" Download wav or Download mp3

La mort de l'abbé Pierre, apôtre des sans-abri, bouleverse la France. The death of Abbot Pierre, apostle of the homeless, shatters France

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