Charles-Edouard Vincent is no stranger to back-to-work schemes. As the founder of Emmaüs-Défi, a back-to-work recycling and resale company which now employs 200 people, he also invented the concept of the Lulu dans ma rue inclusive neighbourhood concierge service in 2014. With the Veolia Foundation’s support, he studied the feasibility of having a kiosk in the centre of Paris to link up residents looking for people with specific skills with the Lulus, the self-employed people offering their services. The plans came to fruition and a first kiosk was opened in the Marais in April 2015, followed by a second one in Villiers in the city’s 17th arrondissement.
The programme created a virtuous circle by linking up home services and work for self-employed people keen to develop an income-generating activity. The self-same ambition is behind the donation boxes scheme.
Helping homeless people to get a foot back on the ladder
When developing the donation boxes project, Charles-Edouard Vincent made use of a mechanism created in 2008 at Emmaüs Défi in partnership with Paris City Council - the Dispositif Premières Heures (DPH or ‘first hours scheme’ in English). His aim is to offer homeless people (DPH employees) work assignments via an employment contract. Getting back to work is a gradual process. The DPH employees start by working four hours a week, reaching 26 hours a week over the course of a year. The idea is to create a personalized pathway back to paid work suited to each individual’s circumstances. The scheme will get people ready for joining a back-to-work project (stable 26 hour weekly contract), and as well as their weekly work, support staff will help them with any housing, health and administrative status issues.
Installing donation boxes and organising collections
The DPH helps people get back to work, but there must be work available for them to do, and this is precisely why the Comptoir des Services is planning to install donation boxes in the common areas of apartment buildings. The idea is to provide a collection point for anything the residents wish to donate, including books, crockery, toys, small items, clothing and small electrical goods. A clear message is conveyed: the donated goods must be reusable and not be rubbish.
Regular collections are then organised to empty the boxes and take the donated goods to relay organisations which sort and redistribute them. The Comptoir des Services uses DPH employees, who are paid for their work, to make the collections. This collection work constitutes the first step on a journey towards getting back to work.
In practical terms, the Lulu dans ma rue clients could be the first to try out the scheme. A dozen apartment buildings in Paris’ fourth arrondissement will house the first donation boxes. The residents will be tasked with telling their neighbours about the initiative, including the building’s concierge in the project, and even becoming project stakeholders by presenting the project to their apartment building’s management firm. In the first phase, Emmaüs Défi will provide the legal framework for the employees and the equipment (truck, boxes for collection etc) will be supplied by the association during the planned trial year.
Apart from the Foundation’s backing, Veolia Recyclage and Valorisation des déchets (RVD) is also helping with designing the donation boxes and working out the logistics of collections.
The initiative should raise awareness about what everyone can do and the commitment they can make in practical terms to help create work for the most socially-excluded people. Donation boxes are the cornerstone of responsible consumption.