Just over 12 million students return to school on Monday. Among them are tens of thousands of children who have no home of their own. It is the daily life of Racha who enters high school. She lives in the room of a social hotel in the Parisian suburbs with her relatives.
“It’s a 9m2 room, as soon as we entered we already hit our foot against the bed”, describes Racha, a 15-year-old girl. This brilliant student has lived for two years in this unique little room with her mother and brother. The room is that of an unsanitary social hotel in Vitry-sur-Seine, in the Val-de-Marne. There are tens of thousands of children in France, like Racha, who will go back to school on Monday September 4, but without having a real home of their own. How can you study well when you don’t have a “home”?
>> Back to school: at least 1,990 children are homeless, a number up 20% over one year, according to UNICEF
In this room, Racha sleeps upstairs, on a bunk bed, her mother and little brother sleep downstairs. “The bed is a wooden plank”, said Racha. His brother confirms: “The mattress is hard. It doesn’t matter, I don’t feel well”. And often, when moving the bed, they discover ___roaches.
Racha is a fighter. Despite these conditions, she graduated from university with flying colors last June. She obtained her patent with the mention “Very good”. Monday, September 4, she enters high school. “My schoolbag is not there, said the girl. It is stored in a small box that we rent. I prefer not to take any risks because last year I found leaves eaten by ___roaches”.
She will do her homework in high school, she has no place in this room. The school is also aware of her situation and it does not matter if her classmates learn that Racha lives in a social hotel: “It’s part of my story. It’s not my fault so why blame myself? It’s the system that’s broken.”.
Here, the showers and toilets are common to the whole hotel. There are few things in the room: a television, a sink, a refrigerator, a microwave where Racha’s mother can heat up food. Wassila arrived from Algeria seven years ago, she is a beautician. It’s a contract in CDI in an institute but its SMIC is not enough for a durable housing. “Every two months, we call 115 to find solutions but we are told that it is saturated, that it is not possible”assures this mother.
” We do not have the choice. There is this or the street”Wassila, Racha’s mother
Racha will continue her activities this year, in particular as a departmental handball referee. She is involved in associations and she also helps with homework. “I dream of a dignified house, with my bedroom, my little office to work as any teenager or teenager should be able to do”, she thinks. Racha does not yet know what she will do later but she wants to get involved politically to “change all that” she says.
Return to three in 9 m²: report by Agathe Mahuet