France had 9.3 million poor people in 2018, according to the latest official figures, and they could be an additional million because of the crisis, some associations have argued.
In Saint-Gaudens alone, a sub-prefecture of 11,500 inhabitants at the gates of the Pyrenees, the Secours populaire managed 124 people before the first confinement: they are now 257 to benefit from the center’s help, says Léa Georget, the responsible for the local branch.
Among the new profiles, already precarious people, poor workers and temporary workers, but also people who have always been financially independent, thrown into poverty after successive confinements.
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Nadine Fernandez arrived from Bouches-du-Rhône, with her family, in Saint-Gaudens in 2017. Her husband and son took over a small gas station and a room for mechanical repairs. The business was not working very well but they managed to make a living from it, until the first confinement.
“They were forced to close. More customers. The charges that obviously accumulated that they could no longer pay. Currently they are in liquidation“, regrets the sixty-year-old with the imposing glasses.
His daughter Emmanuelle, 27, studies in Toulouse, where she had a room in a university residence. This young graduate had found a job but was fired in the second confinement, forcing her to return to her family.
– “First time I’m hungry” –
Today, 40% of precarious households are unable to cover their food expenses, according to the annual report of Secours Catholique. This is the case of Marlène, 42, who also benefited from help from Secours populaire for the first time.
“Before this year, I was living very well. It’s the first time in my life that I’m hungry, it’s still strong in France in 2020“, sighs Marlène Renard, who had not been unemployed for nearly fifteen years.
This forty-something, who lives 10 km from Villefranche-de-Rouergue (Aveyron), is in the process of reconversion. While taking her exam to obtain a diploma in educational and social support, the first confinement upset everything: a hiring that will never take place, a contract in an nursing home postponed sine die.
“I didn’t have enough to pay for my gasoline. My social worker asked me how I ate, I told her that I had my two chickens and that I made my own bread. She gave me a voucher for the Secours populaire until the end of November“, she recalls.
– “During the day, we don’t heat up” –
According to the latest Ipsos / Secours populaire annual barometer, one in four French people restrict the quantities on their plate and one in seven skip meals (14%). This is the case of Soufiane Jaouad, a 29-year-old temporary worker.
“This morning I was able to have breakfast, normally I don’t take any more. At one point, I had four meals a week“, he explains in front of the reception center of the Catholic Help of Arnaud-Bernard, in Toulouse.
“I am at the end of law at Pôle Emploi. I have not yet been compensated this month. In a few days the payment will arrive. I’ll just pay my bills. Expenses increased“, he regrets, newsboy cap screwed on the forehead.
If the new precarious people sometimes benefit from the help of food associations, they are still obliged to tighten their belts for other expenses. In Saint-Gaudens, Nadine and her husband applied for RSA, 700 euros for two, not enough to live properly.
“Have you seen the price of fuel oil? We take care, the day we do not heat. We heat up a little in the evening before going to the shower and a little in the morning. Otherwise we turn everything off“, deplores Nadine.
“My son is 25 years old. He also applied for RSA. He was told he would bounce back, he’s young, he’ll move on“, she tempers, convinced that everything will eventually work out.
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