A café for the world of outcasts

From a convivial spot for a coffee or soup in Paris's 20th arrondissement, the non-profit organization Autremonde is trying to help marginalized people rebuild their lives. At the beginning of 2006, it moved and expanded the range its activities.

"Anybody can end up on the street"

Laurent Micaelli

Since 1994, Autremonde has been bringing two "worlds" together, two worlds that often brush past each other in the large cities, but rarely develop a relationship: young volunteers wanting to engage in local humanitarian work and people in dire circumstances. Until 2005, the organization had a space on the grounds of Tenon Hospital, in the 20th arrondissement. Its volunteers ran a day center there for its clients: marginalized, isolated people; adolescents coping with broken homes or relationships; people with psychological problems. Two-thirds of the center's regular visitors were less than 35 years old.

Regaining self-esteem

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More than service providers, the volunteers offer an opportunity to talk.

In 2006, Autremonde was forced to move. Its premises were in a disused part of the hospital and were slated for demolition. It expected to be "thrown out" and decided to keep a step ahead in 2005 by renovating another space in the 20th arrondissement (rue de la Mare), where it wants to offer activities that complemented those provided at the hospital.
Since then, in this "Café Autremonde, inaugurated in autumn of 2006, " its volunteers, in addition to the daily reception service, will be organising cultural activities (garage sales in favour of the association, showcasing the work of young artists, for instance), parties and cultural outings. They have also set up a legal-information center to facilitate access to social services and the legal system. Finally, through sports and the assistance of physical therapists, podiatrists and hairdressers, they will try to help the neediest people regain their self-confidence and self-esteem.

Along with DASES, the Prefecture and the Ile-de-France regional council, the Veolia Foundation has financed part of the refurbishing of Café Autremonde with a grant of 55 000 euros.