You are currently on the light version of the episode. The interactive version, much more beautiful, is here - available only from a computer.
English subtitles are available, click on CC...
At the beginning... there was indignation!
Denis set up a practical plan to give the homeless a second chance. He resorted to crowdfunding and thus developed with his friend Gwenaël a plan to buy lodgings under the “Toit à Moi” association.
The issue of homelessness has always moved Denis. Certain that it is possible to act and find solutions, he starts to think about a real project to implement. His first idea is to raise people’s awareness and share his indignation through a documentary film, with the goal to have a debate after its broadcasting and be able to raise funds just like in a Telethon (a famous French TV show raising funds to fight myopathy). He starts this project by writing the first script, before realizing that he would like to act in a more concrete way.
The turning point happened in 2007 when Denis walked past a real estate agency, he thought: “There ARE empty apartments. Here they are. It would only take finding a way to buy them”. The solution then was to use the principle of crowdfunding, which was not yet so popular back then. He set to scribbling and adding numbers. The results he got look obvious to him, “it seemed very easy! We are so many indignated people to see so many people living in the street, it would only take 80 people to buy an apartment, only 80 people... ».
The principle was so easy to understand that Denis easily convinced Gwenaël, his work colleague, and they both embarked upon the adventure. They distributed flyers in the streets of Nantes to find the 80 required donators. The result was rather inconclusive...
2008, first apartment bought. Convinced that the project was relevant, they decided to keep going. They gathered about 30 donors in a first team by resorting to personal and professional networking. It was enough to be persuaded the project would work. They then decided to buy their first apartment.
Buying apartments is sustainable!
It was a bet to buy rather than to rent. For Denis, it was one of the keys of the project, “it was the cornerstone of the approach, it was meant to last. We need donors to buy lodgings but, if for one reason or another, some decide to stop giving money, the apartments are ours. We can keep accommodating people who need it”.
The contributors only participate in buying the apartments. “100% of the funds go to buying the lodgings and to nothing else. People need to know where their money is going, the founder specifies. Nowadays, trust and transparency are essential. If they want, they can visit the apartment, it’s real, it’s tangible and sustainable.
The first apartment will soon be reimbursed. The loan has been signed five years ago. The team of « toit à moi » are thinking about writing the names of all the donators inside.
A well-functioning concept
The lodgings are at the heart of the scheme, but the association wouldn’t reach its goal if the concept only cared about that. Some quality accompaniment is essential. The beneficiaries need to be supported and accompanied to be able to bounce back. Yet, such a follow-up is costly. The idea of the two founders is to dissociate such part from the accommodation part. Here, local companies are asked to participate and become sponsors. “The issue has to get solved locally. Local actors have to take part. Companies thus also have a role to play,” Denis adds.
« Toit à moi » : the concept
A necessary accompaniment to the individual
Yacin, holding his little girl in his arms, is sitting in the office in the first floor. He meets with Hélène at least once a week. He keeps repeating over and over, “Ever, I don’t ever want to be parted from them”.
During those appointments, everything is discussed. Love relationships, how to get a landline phone, how to go back to employment. It all depends on the person. Now, Hélène, a specialized educator and responsible for the individual accompaniment, knows them well. She knows where they are at and helps them progressively regain self-confidence.
When Pascal is asked whether accompaniment was useful to him, his answer is definite: “Yes obviously, it’s very important. We wouldn’t get there on our own. Hélène has helped me a lot”.
Quality individual accompaniment. Hélène works in good conditions. She takes care of five beneficiairies and a few older ones such as Pascal. The main goal of the association is to enable a successful and lasting integration. It has been decided that a specialized educator would take care of only 6 to 7 people max.
The quality care demonstrates the strength of the project. Today, in most institutions or social organisms, the budgets keep decreasing. The staff is very busy and often doesn’t have the means to carry out their work in good conditions.The independence of Toit à Moi, notably from state subventions, is fundamental. It enables them to work with serenity and take the time to care about the beneficiaries in a sustainable way, which now happens less and less.
Selecting the beneficiaries... a collective choice
Selecting the beneficiaries
How can the beneficiaries be selected? It’s an awkward issue, without any doubt. Why would we choose this person over another? To answer the question, Toit à Moi decided to resort to outside players who have an important experience of this population. They gather together in a consulting committee. Hence the responsibility is shared and the choice is fairer.
Volunteers to make social bonding
About 30 people. They are retired but also specialized educators, students, unemployed, etc. Their profiles are varied. But all are ready to share time around a cup of coffee, go to concerts, football matches.It is also an important point for the association because getting to live on your own in an apartment overnight is not always easy. Re-creating a circle of friends is essential.