Saturday, January 21, 2006

camping on blvd. sebastopol

I was too shy to take a photo of any, but pup tents have been popping up all over the streets of Paris. The organization médécins du monde has been giving very high quality tents out to homeless people all over Paris for the winter. I thought that the issue of homelessness couldn't possibly be made vivid or interesting ever again -- it was one of those issues that had just been worn out, exhausted, beaten into the ground along with all the unfunctional solutions that had ever been suggested for it -- but this effort has actually made it shocking and interesting to think about again. Not only do the domed tents with their space age materials keep the homeless warm, give them some privacy on the street, provide a place to keep their things safely, and give them a permanent location where food aid and medical workers can find them, but it also makes the homeless seem much more of a permanent fixture on the street, a part of my neighborhood on rue du Temple in front of the Monoprix, or at the pl. de Châtelet. They look familiar, and also strangely bourgeois -- I would find it hard to afford a tent that nice, although it looks like one that might belong to somebody I know, maybe a distant cousin -- although it's hard to imagine cousins of mine with the street smarts to set up their tent over a heating vent in front of my local Monoprix. The homeless take up a little more space on our sidewalk now, I can't quite ignore them, but they also seem to have a certain right to be there now -- they're established. I've always had a certain sympathy with the homeless from living in places where rents are high and apartments don't feel stable, securely mine -- but now we're even more similar. (Of course I am speaking from a position of privilege in writing this, but we always exist in strange relations of power and powerless towards the things we write about). I like not only that they are leading a more comfortable life now with the tent, but also that they remind me the city is a wild untamed place, the concrete wilderness, asphalt jungle; we're both camping out in it, finding a little shelter in the wilds that is our own.

1 Comments:

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12:57 AM  

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