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'It's unacceptable': 11 homeless people die on Paris streets in just six weeks

Nearly a dozen people sleeping rough on the streets of the French capital have died since January 1st, according to new figures as Paris announces plans to count the number of homeless in the city.


Between January 1st and February 12th, 11 people living on the Paris streets have died.

And across the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France there were a total of 18 deaths in the same period, according to the list from Les Morts dans la Rue (Deaths on the street), a collective dedicated to documenting the deaths of homeless people in France. 

There's no doubt that the scale of the problem of rough sleeping on the streets of Paris is hard to ignore, with the sheer number of people begging in the French capital raising the eyebrows of locals and visitors alike.

In response to the list, Jean-Christophe Combe, director general of the Red Cross, told Le Figaro that the situation was "not acceptable and not sustainable".

Combe added that the causes of death on the street are multiple and include "hypothermia, chronic disease and addiction". 

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Photo: AFP

Meanwhile the collective said that a man's life expectancy drops from 79 to 49 when he is living without shelter.

These deaths sometimes relate to the cold but, according to Cécile Rocca, coordinator of the collective: "Deaths can also be caused by suicide, an accident or violence," she told Le Figaro.

"Since 2012, we are on an average of 500 deaths per year for France. It's relatively constant. These are mostly men around 53 years old," Rocca said.

"Women account for only 10 percent of deaths," she added. 

The latest victim in Paris was a 52-year-old woman who died overnight on Sunday on rue Lafayette in the 9th arrondissement. 

She had been living on the street for three years, according to French press reports.

Despite attempts to rescue her she could not be revived and her death became the 11th of its kind in just six weeks. 

Photo: AFP

Unsurprisingly, the figures have prompted questions about whether the city is doing enough for its homeless population. 

The figures were released just as Paris revealed details of its Nuit de la Solidarite (Night of Solidarity) project. 

This will see an army of 1,700 volunteers take to the streets with the aim of counting the number of people living on the streets in a bid to better distribute services. 

At the moment the government is unsure of how many people are sleeping rough. 

And according to experts, the recent figures reveal how much needs to change when it comes to helping the homeless in Paris. 

"This is not about the amount of space available, we have opened another 2700 places as part of the winter plan," said Dominique Bordin in charge of working with the homeless at City Hall.

"But we need to have a response adapted to the needs of these people. We must get better at convincing them, better at detecting vulnerability and finding solutions more suited to individual situations."

And there are worries that the the problem, already bad, is getting worse. 

"There have been more and more French people ending up on the streets in recent years with rising unemployment. And there is a problem with the lack of local solidarity," Louis-Xavier Leca, Director of La Cloche, an organisation that promotes relationships between neighbourhood businesses, residents and the homeless living there, previously told The Local. 

"After my own experience spending time in Chile and West Africa, I think it can be worse to fall on hard times in Paris than in poorer countries. People tend to be more isolated here," he added.

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