France – Beauvais AT THE HEART OF “LA BOUTIQUE”: A HOME ADDRESS

The full name is ‘‘Boutique Solidarité Emmaüs’’ – a place to receive persons who are in difficulty, men, women with children often, and who are on the fringes of Society.(an interview with Jacqueline LSA)

Behind this situation, there are reasons that can be imagined, and which together can be dramatic: lack of resources, of accommodation, no work, no relations and, sometimes, no documents. 
It is really difficult: everything is a problem – eating, finding somewhere to sleep, to wash, to clothe oneself, dragging around everything one has (one or two bags). 
 
Those welcomed come to have a breakfast, spend some time in the warmth, take a shower, wash their clothing… In some cases, they have lunch and even a rest, in keeping with regulations set out by the public authorities. 
 
The men are the most numerous – 1,550 for 2016 but there were also 750 women with 500 children, whose situation is even more difficult. These people can be immigrants who have arrived more or less recently, but there are also many French persons, natives of Beauvais or the surrounding region. They have many reasons for coming to the ‘boutique’ and, for 2016, almost 25,000 visits were noted! 
 
Those working full-time at the ‘boutique’ meet them regularly to discuss their situation, see how to ‘move on’, what steps or procedures to advise, etc. 
 
X –Procedures … But what can one do when one does not have an address and, because of that, no links with anybody? 
 
J – That is precisely where the Boutique gives a very valuable service: 
 
It has an agreement with the public authorities that the person who so requests may have as official address, that of the Boutique. It is what is called domiciliation. 
 
The person received will be given a certificate of choice of domicile, which can be used for all official procedures. The person can thus contact without problems the Social Security office, the Family Allowance Office, the Employment Bureau etc., and receive personal or administrative correspondence at the Boutique.
 
To be domiciled, therefore, is something extremely important for access to one’s rights and the hope of a gradual re-insertion. 
 
X – If I understand correctly, you work in that Service?
 
J – Yes, I participate in that Service in a small way, coming three hours a week to give a helping hand – a drop in the ocean! Indeed, during 2016 over 600 persons who were completely unknown to us up to then (2/3 men for 1/3 women), asked to be domiciled. There were also very many others, already known to us but whom we had lost sight of, who re-opened their request to be domiciled; and, we do not forget the hundreds of persons whom we welcome and who renewed their request in the course of 2016. 
 
It is true that being domiciled is something fortunate and it is also demanding. When one is expecting a letter, one opens the letter box every day. Similarly, it is in the interest of a person who has been welcomed to go to the boutique often to see if he/she has received something. 
 
Also, if the person does not come over a period of three months, we close the domiciliation… If he returns, we can re-open it if he so requests. … Similarly, at the end of a year, it must be renewed, before being closed finally when the person at last has a real home, or another address. 
 
This indicates that the administrative work is important and very precise, on computer and on index cards (indispensable archives). That is where my domain is. 
 
X – It must be rather austere! 
 
J – At first sight, yes. But, in fact, the cards on which I work put me in contact with men, women and children; with French people, Africans, Asians. They are young or not so young, but never very aged because people do not live long when they have such a precarious existence, whatever their origin may be. 
 
What I am in contact with there is a little facet of the disturbed life of this world, of its suffering, with the mystery of each one to be welcomed and respected. 
I am happy to be participating in the work of a very motivated team: the project is to help to ensure that each person may be able to find a foothold … and this enables one to ‘‘hold out’’ on the day it is most difficult.
The Boutique is Emmaüs, and Emmaüs is the Abbé Pierre: we are following in his footsteps ... 
 
Several novices have had a time of experience at the Boutique, a very significant time in their journey towards a commitment as a Little Sister. They found there a quality of welcome, simple and from the heart, that had a flavour of the Gospel, Good News for all persons. That is also my opinion. …
 
Jacqueline Finot, LSA
 
10/04/2017
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