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article imageOp-Ed: Winter’s coming so let’s get the homeless off the streets Special

By Michael Cosgrove     Nov 15, 2010 in Politics
If what is happening in Lyon, France to the homeless at the beginning of this winter is happening everywhere else in the Western world we are going to see a lot of dead people come February.
When I came to live in Lyon in the mid 1990’s Lyon’s Perrache train station – one of the busiest in France – was peopled by travelers, local commuters, a few prostitutes, and the homeless.
The Perrache winter homeless used to be found in waiting rooms, at the tops and bottoms of stairwells and corridors, in little nooks and crannies here and there, and they did their best not to make trouble in the knowledge that doing so would get them thrown off the station.
Then came a G10 (as it was called then) summit in Lyon so the police and authorities cleared all the homeless out for a couple of months in order that visiting dignitaries wouldn't have to see them.
And they have never been allowed back into the station since.
The homeless of Perrache used to spend their summers in the surrounding parks and their winters in the upper floors of the station trying to keep warm, but they are now being pushed out for good. They are now to be found only at the entrance to the subway, which is at lower ground level.
There are dozens of them down there with the wind blowing in from outside. Most of them are older and fragile. You can smell the urine even before you reach the escalator.
Some are drunk.
Homeless person  Lyon France
Homeless person, Lyon France
Some are begging.
Giving money to a homeless person  Lyon France
Giving money to a homeless person, Lyon France
Some are too tired and cold to do either.
Some are asleep.
But Stan wanted to talk. Stan is a 60-year-old homeless Polish immigrant to France and he described what is happening down there.
Homeless person  Lyon France
Homeless person, Lyon France
“The subway closes at 1am and then the security guys come down and ask us to leave. We always refuse but they start insulting us and pushing us towards the outside entrance. There’s often a scuffle or two but they eventually push us out.”
He went on to explain that they are physically ejected from the station only when winter comes because there are “too many of us.”
“It used to be different” he says. “We were allowed to sleep upstairs before, then we got moved to ground level, then to where we are now, and even then we can only stay here until 1am. Then we are moved outside.”
And my prediction is that they shall be moved outside permanently if this abuse continues.
How is it possible that at the same time that winter is approaching, people all over the Western world are letting their well-fed dogs and cats into their warm houses after sundown to sleep because of the cold outside whilst physically weak and vulnerable human beings are being flung out into the cold and rain to sleep on park benches and under trees and bridges?
It is time to start thinking about the homeless instead of just passing them by..
Homeless person  Lyon France
Homeless person, Lyon France
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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