Conseil d'Etat Paris.

Combating Social Exclusion through Public-Private Partnerships: Mobile Assistance Teams and Dayshelters for the Homeless

A Case from the North: Paris, online France

The City of Paris, no rx a member of the World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty, treatment took the initiative in 1993 of organising an emergency medical and welfare service for the homeless, the Samu Social de Paris (SSP). Building on this action, the municipality opened day shelters for the homeless in 1996. To realise these projects, the Municipality of Paris appealed to both public and private partners. These partnerships have enabled the municipality to limit its costs and gradually reduce its share of the total investment. Similar partnerships could be formed for other types of project.

The Samu Social de Paris

A municipal initiative

In November 1993, the Municipality of Paris set up an emergency service for the homeless called the Samu Social de Paris (SSP)-Paris Emergency Welfare Service-which provides mobile assistance teams to go and meet people in distress on the streets and responds to telephone calls about the homeless. The SSP can refer homeless people to medical or nursing care, overnight crisis accommodation or a day shelter. It can organise transport to these places and registration.

A public/private partnership

To realise this project, the Municipality of Paris joined forces with private and public partners. The partnership is a legally and financially independent association. A board of directors, composed of representatives of all the partners, decides on the actions of the SSP, which are implemented by management.

The partners provide staff, office space, equipment, contributions to the annual budget and other forms of support.

The SSP initially comprised the following organisations:

  • Various levels of government: the Municipality of Paris, the Department of Paris and the national government
  • Public welfare institutions: the Centre d’Action Sociale, a welfare organisation within the Municipality of Paris; the Assistance Publique, the organisation that manages hospitals in the greater Paris area; an emergency medical and accommodation centre in the Paris suburb of Nanterre; the Ile-de-France regional branch of the Fédération Nationale des Associations de Réinsertion Sociale, the national federation of reinsertion associations; and the Caisse des Dépots et Consignations, the organisation in charge of managing funds of private origin for economic and social development
  • Private and semi-private organisations, such as the Paris transport authority (RATP) and the water company La Lyonnaise des Eaux.

Other companies have since joined the SSP, notably the national railway company (SNCF) in 1996 and the national gas and electricity utilities (Gaz de France and Electricité de France) in 1997.

An active approach to attracting supplementary financing

To broaden the range of services provided for the homeless, the SSP actively seeks supplementary financing. By stressing the sense of community inherent in its work, the SSP has attracted financial assistance from private corporations keen to present real images of good corporate citizenship. To ensure long-term support, a corporate sponsorship committee has been established, whose charter binds partners to support and develop the SSP’s current and future activities over the long term, according to individual areas of expertise.

The SSP has signed an agreement with the national health insurance organisation to contribute to the financing of medical care provided for the homeless.

The SSP also receives donations of money and equipment from individual and corporate benefactors.

By broadening its partnership, the municipality has been able to strengthen existing services and launch new activities.

Consequences of the partnership

  1. The partnership has made it possible to offer services that none of the participating organisations could have financed alone.
  2. The SSP’s budget increased sevenfold between 1995 and 1998, but the cost for the Municipality of Paris rose by only 47%.
  3. Extending the partnership has made it possible to reduce each partner’s share of the total investment.

The share of the Municipality of Paris in particular has decreased significantly: from 67% of the annual budget in 1995 to 25% in 1997 and probably 20% in 1998.

The services provided by the Samu Social de Paris:

  • Emergency 24-hour hotline for the homeless. During the day, the SSP’s professional telephone operators respond to calls from homeless people with the main purpose of reserving them a bed for the night. At night, the mobile assistance teams are sent to meet homeless people and offer them a bed for the night in response to calls from the people themselves or from others. The SSP works in partnership with organisations and associations that provide temporary accommodation for the homeless.
  • Mobile assistance teams comprising a nurse, a social worker and a driver go and find homeless people who may be in extreme distress. Their mission is to offer accommodation to victims of social exclusion and to give an emergency diagnosis of their health and welfare needs.
  • Accommodation centres with a total of around 500 beds have been made available by the SSP’s partners. There are different types of accommodation to meet diverse needs. Depending on the severity of the nurse’s and social worker’s diagnosis, the homeless person will be taken to ordinary crisis accommodation, to crisis accommodation with nursing care where he/she will be examined by a team of nurses and by a general practitioner the following day, or to a hospital.
  • Day shelters. In addition to the SSP’s emergency work, several Solidarity-Reinsertion Centres have been opened (see Espaces Solidarité-Insertion below).
  • Research arm (l’Observatoire de la Grande Exclusion et de la Précarité) whose role is to study the problems and issues associated with homelessness.

In 1996, the Samu Social de Paris took care of more than 46,000 people during the night, after 35,000 in 1995.

The Espaces Solidarité Insertion

Another public-private partnership on the initiative of the Municipality of Paris

Building on the success of the SSP, in 1996 the Municipality of Paris took the initiative of teaming up with the national government and the Paris transport authority (RATP) to set up and operate day shelters providing facilities to assist homeless people reintegrate into society: the Espaces Solidarité Insertion (ESI)-Solidarity-Reinsertion Centres. An agreement detailed the expenditure on investment and operation.

Each ESI offers the following:

  • Reception and personal hygiene facilities
  • Restoring self-esteem: through access to newspapers, a television, a library, a café, a hairdresser, a podiatrist, etc.
  • Medical and paramedical assistance from general practitioners, psychiatrists, dermatologists, alcohol addiction specialists, etc.
  • The ESI are in contact with the night shelters to provide crisis accommodation for people referred during the day. In 1997, an ESI was set up inside a hospital (Pitié Salpétrière) for people whose state of health necessitates hospitalisation.
  • Welfare services: an area where interviews can be held, such as with lawyers to recover rights.
  • Implementation of an employment corner, containing newspapers, job advertisements, links with the national employment office (Agence Nationale Pour l’Emploi)
  • These experiences in combating social exclusion have developed and diversified thanks to the combined efforts of numerous contributors. The size and diversity of the partnerships involved have made it possible to implement services on a large scale. The initial effort made by the municipality to set up these services now seems tiny in relation to the subsequent expansion of activities.

We would like to thank the City of Paris and the Samu Social de Paris for sending us this information.

For more information, please contact:

Anne Constance Onghena,
Public Relations,
Samu Social de Paris,
35, avenue Courteline 75012
phone: (33) 01 41 74 84 56

Roland Moreau
Head of Welfare
Children’s and Health Affairs, Municipality of Paris
94-96, quai de la Rapée 75570
Paris cedex 12
phone: (33) 01 43 47 70 00