France has been the theater of a little revolution for human rights. Like all huge cities, many homeless people live in the streets of Paris. There are many of them… too many actually, because that’s what we should always say when talking about people in need.
For years many associations tried to help them. As it is a real political struggle for the associations, it is a real struggle for life for the homeless as many of them die during winter when the temperatures drop down.
This year something different happened. Let me link this with creativity, because I think whoever had this idea deserves a medal from the communication professionals.
Just before Christmas and at the same time, just before the French elections of early 2007, an association raised the perfect project within the perfect timing. As you know homeless people usually find refuge under bridges, in small streets or everywhere in the city they can find shelter without disrupting so called “public order”. In other words they find a hideout.
Les Enfants de Don Quichotte (Don Quixote’s Children), the hero association, went the opposite way. They regrouped many homeless as well as dozens of otherwise well-housed, middle-class French men and women and organized a flashy open air squat along the popular hype Parisian Canal St Martin. Idea was to lineup red pup tents along the canal and sleep there. They also alerted media, press, charismatic VIPs and artists to capitalize on the event. French authorities couldn’t launch the police to move them from there, because of the danger for people to fall into the canal. About 250 tents were aligned on the peer, with the spectacular effect you can imagine. Operation was launched in several French cities, which amplified the impact over media coverage.
Check the association's photo gallery on their website and also this video. Although in french, I think the message spreads well anyway. After what you just read it'll give you a good overview of the situation.
This demonstration drawn so much attention during Christmas holidays that President Jacques Chirac promised in his traditional New Year address to the nation to act and change the law for the homeless. He said he asked the government to work in the coming weeks to “put in place a truly enforceable right to housing” that would give the homeless the legal means to demand a place to live - (source: New York Times).
Now when the actual public debate is:“…when will this new law be voted and …how long is it going to take to be effective?”, it is not anymore: “…It’s a shame nothing is being done!”. - I think this is for good.
At the risk of being utopian (I know someone’s gonna smile at that one!), I think many things could be changed this way in our society. Community is a key. Acting is another one. Right moment, right means, right place… yet another one. More subjectively, commitment, heart and passion are essential motivators. But the most important of all is probably to “Think different”, jump out of the box, trace a new path, or like Roger von Oech’s points out "Escape from obsolete ideas" or in other words :
Look for the second right answer.
So, go ahead, be creative, believe…
… and change the world!