In Montpellier, in the south of France, the delivery of hot meals by bicycle is no longer a service reserved for those with money and a home. During the confinement, every day, dozens of homeless people are delivered to the street by a collective of solidarity citizens.
Using the principle of the famous “Deliveroo” home delivery service, volunteers have spontaneously organised themselves within “Déliv’rue” (“Rue” means street in French) to bring food, comfort and create a link with the city’s most deprived people.
Started at the beginning of the second confinement, early November, this solidarity movement now has nearly 350 members, 241 “cooks”, who prepare meals at home and around a hundred “bikers”, who use the strength of their legs, on their bicycles, to deliver in the street.
“I’m really not a good cook… in fact I don’t like to cook, but I got into it and surprised myself! I make simple things like lasagna and I enjoy it! “says Lila Ruiz de Somocurcio, a “cook”, a member of the administration team of this initiative.
Lamb and olive tagines, roast veal, tartiflettes, Moroccan lentils, chocolate heart cake, butternut soup with coconut milk, fruit compote… On the Facebook page, which brings together the whole Deliv’rue community, the “cooks” take pride in preparing small dishes for others. These others that they will never see but of whom they know, through the testimonies of the “cuissots”, the delivery men, how grateful they are.
Creating social bond
Meal baskets always include a hot dish and cutlery, sometimes a dessert and a drink. “I often add a cloth mask that I have thanks to another solidarity association I work with,” explains Lila. Others add gloves, a warm hat or a book, a card game. “The most important thing is to help each other and create social links,” Johanna insists.
Johanna Copobene, along with Raphaël Auternaud and Antoine Marc, is one of the founding members of “Deliv’rue” who were inspired by the “Pour Eux” movement. This initiative, which developed during the first confinement, exists in several cities in France and Belgium.
“During the day, with confinement there are fewer people on the streets, and for the homeless, this means fewer people giving money. There are several associations which organise food distributions in various parts of the city, but especially in the evening. So we make deliveries during the day, without the homeless having to move around the city,” Johanna explains.
Launched on 2 November, Delive’rue had already distributed more than 580 food baskets. On average they deliver 40 to 80 meals a day, sometimes as many as 100, especially at weekends when the “cooks” and “cuissots” are more available.
The members of this unique community, who have never seen each other, communicate via Facebook, where they can download the forms whether they are cooks or delivery people. The six administrators take care of linking “cooks” and “cuissots”.
The initiative is starting to become known, particularly through the local and national media, and 2000 people are now members of the Facebook community. “We even have a few homeless people contacting us directly. I delivered meals to a couple who live in a slightly outlying neighbourhood and needed help,” says Côme.
Côme, who works at an aviation school near Montpellier airport, travels up to 100 km every weekend on his bike to deliver meals. He is in direct contact with the homeless. “Some people know me by my first name and I know theirs too. Their anonymity is respected, especially on social networks, but I take the time, when they agree, to take a photo to send to the “cook” who prepared the meal”.
The link is rather easy to make. “All you have to do is be respectful, say hello, ask for news and ask “would you like a hot dish”. It’s simple,” says Côme. He’s also preparing a video to guide future “cuissots” who want to join the team.
A daily bite of happiness
“We want to keep the system simple, flexible and non-binding. The aim is above all to create social links, to allow everyone to participate as and when they can. There are few constraints except hygiene of course and all the recommendations related to the pandemic,” continues Johanna.
“It’s a daily sting of happiness. This solidarity in these complicated times is good for everyone, those who give and those who receive,” says Lila. Already involved in several associations, she is preparing for Christmas a “Shoe Boxes” operation with gifts for the most destitute. A hat, a scarf, gloves, hygiene products, a book, a crossword puzzle and a pen, a little word, a chocolate sweet, a treat: the “Christmas boxes” are becoming more and more successful all over France.
For Johanna and her friends, it’s time, as the confinement becomes more flexible, to imagine the future of their community, other forms of action perhaps, so that this wave of solidarity continues after the pandemic.
“Initially, when it is possible and in accordance with health regulations, it would be great if we could get together, if the community could get together, if all people involved could get to know each other,” explains Johanna. “We have a thousand ideas on how to continue our actions after the lockdown. We all want, even if people will be less available after the confinement, to continue the adventure together”, adds Côme.
To respond to all the requests from people who would like to follow the example, Deliv’rue first of all advises people to join the “Pour Eux ” groups, which are already well structured, but has also developed a charter and practical information sheets on how to approach people on the street, protect their anonymity, respect hygiene instructions, etc. “We do not, for example, aim to get people out of their situation or to take care of them, but when there is an urgent need, especially for health, our “cuissots ” can direct people to the appropriate social services”.
In France, 22 million people are involved in voluntary work, a third of them very actively, according to a survey conducted by the University of Nantes. Solidarity initiatives and individual commitment to associations are on the rise. At the same time, with the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are in need of assistance. The Restos du Coeur, founded by Coluche 36 years ago, recently estimated that nearly one million people in France could use their food assistance service this year.
- UNRIC COVID-19 Hub
- UNRIC COVID-19 backgrounder
- COVID-19: How do you self-isolate if you have nowhere to live?
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