To highlight and better understand the plight of the homeless, dozens of Parisians are taking to sleeping in tents, trading comfortable apartments for the cold, dirt, noise and dangers of the streets.
For social worker Claire Exertier, the experience has been a real eye-opener.
"I'm freezing and exhausted," the 30-year-old said Monday after her second night under canvass. "I've always really felt for the homeless, but before living it, you can never really understand how hard it is."
That was just the reaction Jean-Baptiste and Augustin Legrand were hoping for. The brothers organized the planting of the 100 red pup tents this past weekend on the banks of the Saint Martin canal, which runs through the east of Paris.
Any Parisian who wants to can experience life without a roof over their heads.
"For most people, the homeless are just another part of the cityscape, like cars and trees and buildings. People don't give them a second thought," said Jean-Baptiste, a movie producer and president of the non-for-profit group, The Children of Don Quixote.
"We wanted to give ordinary citizens a chance to walk in the shoes of the homeless."
On Monday, the tents were mostly occupied by professionals with flexible work schedules, like actors and artists, and by homeless people sheltering from the cold. They included Fabien, homeless since he lost his job in a warehouse eight months ago, reports AP.
He said he approved of the initiative but added that it "sugarcoated" the reality of homeless life.
"Here in the tents, we're safe and warm, which is not the case on the street," said Fabien, who declined to give his last name, saying he didn't want his family to find out that he has no home.
"I hope it will change in the way society sees us."
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