Paris, France

Alexandre, his cat and his treasure

Meet Alexandre. For the past four years, Alexandre has been homeless on the streets of Paris. For a while, he found safety and security in a social housing estate, but after the building was sold, he had nowhere else to turn.

Photography & storytelling: Tony Dočekal
Est. 3 minutes

While designing for the Sheltersuit x Chloe collaboration in Paris, we simultaneously hit the streets to learn and understand the needs of this city. Before the full economic effects of Covid were truly felt by the city of light, there were over 3500 unsheltered people who sought refuge on her streets.* Their tents and makeshift beds largely ignored by passers-by.

France’s homeless population is believed to have risen to around 300.000 – double the number of 2012 – and is only likely to increase with the Covid-19 economic crisis. A new jump in figures is feared on 1 April 2021, which marks the official start of spring evictions. French law prevents landlords from evicting tenants during the winter months.

*(Financial Times, 2020)

Unsheltered Moments Paris

Meet Alexandre. For the past four years, Alexandre has been homeless on the streets of Paris. For a while, he found safety and security in a social housing estate, but after the building was sold, he had nowhere else to turn.

Many years ago, Alexandre was a mariner who traveled around the world.

“I didn’t care much for New York or London… Rotterdam, I loved it! But, Paris is my home, this is where my heart is.”

“I’d give everything I own for a room, but please leave me my cat.”

– Alexandre

Meet Blanche, Alexandre’s greatest love. By day, Blanche perches on Alexandre’s shoulder, surveying their city and, by night, curls up on the safety of his stomach.

“I’m not a big sleeper, I used to sleep maybe 2 hours. But now, with Corona, Paris is deserted at nighttime. I play with my cat for a while and then we sleep until 9 am.”

Alexandre goes to great lengths to create a refuge for himself and Blanche for the night.
In the late evening, he collects around seven bins from the sides of the street and together with cardboard, fencing, blankets and an old suitcase for a mattress, creates a temporary and innovative place of safety.

“At 8 o’clock, every night, I return here. I put the cardboard on the floor. After that my baggage, the cat, the containers. After I do that, this is my room. This is my place.”

– Alexandre
Floodlights are being installed at Alexandre’s old sleeping spot.

Not long ago, Alexandre used to sleep next to his car, but the company who owned the neighbouring building hired a security guard to discourage setting up any form of temporary overnight shelter.

Whilst learning of his life as an unsheltered Parisian, a technician arrived to install bright security floodlights as an added measure to chase away any homeless person who might seek shelter in the vicinity of their property.

Blanche hides from the rain in their car.

Carefully tucked away, Alexandre shared one of his prized possessions with us, a beautiful Klimt.

Emotionally stirring, this juxtapose – the delicate symbolism of Klimt’s “The Kiss” and an unsheltered Parisian whose wealth lies in the appreciation of good art and a cat named Blanche.

“Someone told me this painting is worth millions… isn’t that something? I am homeless, but I keep it close right here.”

Alexandre and his Kilmt
Alexandre and Shasho

As a community, we can continue to provide local entrepreneurs and humanitarians the necessary tools to empower them to multiply the Sheltersuit Effect and our shared global mission that every person, no matter where they are from, has the right to protection.

We are, and will always be, people helping people.

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About this project

For this ongoing project, we engage with unhoused communities in various cities. The intimate documentary reflects the unraveling of society and exposes the equal measures of strength and vulnerability of each of its characters.

By capturing these raw moments in a new light, we challenge the mainstream representation of a growing, forgotten group. It reminds us that people who experience homelessness should neither be labeled nor disregarded. Everyone has a story to tell.