Perhaps you have spotted, on the windows of the Ecusson, in Montpellier (Hérault), small blue chimes. This symbol is affixed to the storefronts of cafes, grocery stores or restaurants that adhere to the solidarity operation, carried by the association La cloche, which works for the homeless. In these shops, people in need know that they can find a little comfort, a coffee or a glass of water, that they have the possibility of accessing the toilets, using wifi, printing or photocopying papers administrative tasks, reheating a dish in the microwave, etc. All this, for free.
The device, called Le carillon, which has existed since this winter in Montpellier, was launched in 2014 in Paris, “starting from the observation of the isolation, and the rejection, from which homeless people suffer”, confides Morgane Pagès, director of The bell in Occitania.
“Encourage the desire of merchants to join this network”
Today, in Montpellier, 14 shops have affixed the little blue chimes to their windows, mainly in the Ecusson. There are cafes, restaurants, but also a bookstore or a game store. The La Cloche association hopes that other shops, particularly in the Beaux-Arts district, will soon be seduced by this device.
But is it easy for La cloche to convince businesses to open their doors to the homeless? “It requires work, we go to meet traders, to tell them about the association, and about this project, continues the regional director of La cloche. Some see it as an opportunity to show solidarity, thanks to their business. Others are not interested, but we will not necessarily seek to convince them. The idea is to encourage merchants to join this network. »
The health crisis has tended “to reinforce the desire to be united”
This can also be done step by step. By “offering two or three services, initially. If the merchants see that things are going well, and that links are forged with the population, they can commit a little more. For Morgane Pagès, the health crisis which has shaken society in recent years has also tended to “reinforce the desire to be united”. “We have merchants who contact us, spontaneously, to join the system”, explains the representative of the association.
In rue Saint-Guilhem, in Montpellier, the Café Solo is part of this network of solidarity traders. Customers have the option of paying for an additional coffee, 1.50 euro, a “suspended coffee”, which will be offered to a homeless person. “Le Carillon has only brought up to date something that had already existed for a long time at Café Solo,” confides its manager, Jessica. We have always offered coffees to people begging in the street. With this little poster, at the entrance to the café, it makes customers more aware, who say to themselves “Ah, well, we may also be thinking of them”.
Jessica did not hesitate for a second to join the scheme, and to open its doors to people in need. “Human relations, already, in our current society, are a bit complicated,” she confides. If, in addition, we reject people in poverty, we widen the gap a little more. It’s just awful. They are people like you and me, we don’t know what happened in their lives. »