The ‘Hors la Rue’ (‘off the street’) association: ‘We must help solitary Romany children’
Île-de-France - Montreuil
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods
To keep Romany minors from a life of homelessness and exploitation, the ‘Hors la Rue’ association has been guiding them on the road to education and training since 2002. A little-known effort, which has benefited more than 2000 young people in the Paris Region.
It is estimated that between 5000 and 7000 Romany children, most of Romanian origin, currently live in France without receiving any schooling. These figures are the result of the extremely insecure social and economic situation affecting this population, as well as a certain marginalization. Olivier Peyroux, Deputy Director of "Hors la Rue", points out : "Even though Romanian and Bulgarian Romanies are able to travel freely in the European area since their countries joined the EU, they still do not have access to employment and vocational training. Without connections or qualifications, many fall back on such financial survival mechanisms as begging, prostitution, small business, etc." Children can sometimes be forced to participate in these activities. That is why ‘Hors la Rue’ works to identify and make contact with children where they live and work. The Parisian association’s team of Franco-Romanian youth workers meets 200 to 300 new Romany minors each year, many of whom have lost contact with their families and have fallen off the radar of any child protection system. The team also staffs a daytime drop-in centre based in Montreuil, Seine Saint-Denis, since 2010. The VINCI Foundation financed the setting up of this facility, where visitors can eat a meal, take a shower, participate in sports and cultural activities, and find solutions to improve their situation. "Our aim”, says Olivier Peyroux, "is to be a gateway to general rights. We help these young people to take steps towards a return to education to draw up a coherent training plan."
To fight set ideas
With the help of the social and integration services, the association's thirteen employees fight to locate mechanisms to support and guide children and teenagers seeking to return to school or find a vocational training programme. They also ensure that children wishing to return to their home country can do so with the backing of local associations and with training prospects. Thanks to these actions, since 2002 more than 2000 minors have been able to embark on a project. These are positive results, but they must not obscure the enormity of the task and the difficulties encountered. "Romanies are the victims of many misconceptions, and the association struggles to gain public understanding of its efforts in the context of largely unfavourable public opinion," explains François Le Vert, Communication Director of VINCI Park (VINCI Concessions) and sponsor of the association since 2002. "I have been supporting this project ever since it started, shortly after VINCI had to deal with the rash of thefts from parking ticket machines by gangs of young Romanians… It made more sense to support an initiative aiming to help these youths break the cycle of delinquency than to rely on a policy of repressive measures…" François Le Vert intends to continue defending this conviction, which needs to be re-stated now more than ever, in the name of protecting the rights of children.
October 2010 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency
VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.