It’s easy to see why people fall in love with this city, or return in their droves despite the current climate. Walking through its streets, if you’d been living under a rock and/or away from the news, you could be forgiven for thinking that the attacks, arrests and rise of the National Front were from a bygone era. It wasn’t until I was sitting in a restaurant that happened to have a TV tuned to the national news did I know that there was a primary that very day.
While the prospect of Europe falling apart country by country is terrifying, not least because it is becoming increasingly likely, what I found immediately more concerning during my weekend there was the number of homeless folk settling down for a night on the streets.
I mentioned the political climate over this side of the Atlantic. In conjunction with the migrant crisis and those fleeing the middle East, excluding the Roma gangs (a completely different ballgame), seeing women with several children planted around the city left me in a mental quandary. Were these ‘families’ coordinated scams, or are they refugees, rejected by an arguably hostile city and relegated to the streets?
No answer would satisfy me, and the conversation that stemmed from it didn’t either. Like money, food and water, no one should find themselves living on the street – the world has enough resources to ensure against it, but we’re somehow still not there. In the same breath, the homeless are unequivocally stigmatised as delinquents and untrustworthy. And with the rise in gangs and scammers, as there are in any country, we shut down more and more. We close in on ourselves, become cynical and call it canny thinking, reducing the possibility that maybe it isn’t all that bad all of the time.
With all this grandeur and ornate architecture, beggars and the homeless are a stark contrast and, for some, a reality check. I split these posts into day and night for aesthetic reasons, but in the case of those on the street there is minimal difference when it comes to times of day. The issue of rough sleeping is a thorn in Paris’ side and has been for some time. In a weird way, it almost seems fitting that a Scarecrow symbol, emanating the Bat signal, looms over Paris.
(That’s definitely what it is, don’t argue with me).