You can choose to turn a blind eye to a troublesome situation, but if it is put right in front of your face, you just simply can’t ignore it. That was the marketing tactic that was introduced to the city of Paris back in 2006 about the rising epidemic of homelessness.
Medecins du Monde, which stands for Doctors of the World, is an international and non-profit humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical care, launched a project to bring the issue of homelessness to view and put Parisians in a position where they cannot simply just walk away. Called the “tent city” campaign, the organization set up hundreds of tents along the city streets and famous monuments, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame, for the homeless to sleep in.
Over 300 homeless people were able to sleep in the tents. As days passed and news of Tent City spread, even more tents popped up and even more of the homeless population came into plain view of everyone. Soon, almost all the streets were dotted with the tents and the campaign became a city fixture.
It drew mixed criticisms, with some people repulsed that their beautiful city was cluttered with tents, while others were deeply moved and wanted to join in the campaign. In fact, a good number of those sleeping the tents were the upper-middle class who felt strongly about the homelessness in the city that keeps rising. In fact, some have even driven from other cities to join in the protest.
28-year old Bleunwenn Manrot drove more than six hours with her friends from their home in Brittany to spend a night in one of the tents along the canal.
“Each person should have the minimum dignity in a country as rich as this,” she said.
Was this strategy successful in raising awareness and the attention of government officials? It absolutely did. The Junior Minster for Employment and Social Cohesion, Catherine Vautrin, announced that would be 7 million euros set aside for 1270 hostel beds. President Jacques Chirac even acknowledged in during his traditional New Year’s address to the nation, stating that the government to work in the next coming weeks to bring about legal rights for the homeless to find housing.
The strategy was simple. If there was to be no housing project to be done, what will result from it is even more people living on the streets, but this time they won’t be forced into dark corners or under bridges, away from public view. To put the situation in plain sight was the most direct way that the situation can be acknowledged.
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