- (Emmaüs Alternatives)
The Solidarity Lockers initiative began in Lisbon, as a result of conversations that ACA volunteers had with people living on the streets. It became clear that homeless people are waging a daily battle to prevent their money, documents, clothing and belongings which have a sentimental value from being stolen and that they needed a safe place to keep their belongings. “In the street, there is no trust. It’s every man for himself, you just have to find a way to get by.” These solidarity lockers are offering trust to the homeless people who receive one.
After a long design process with a local company, the first solidarity lockers were set up in Lisbon in 2015. In 2018, 60 lockers were offered to homeless people who agreed to sign a contract which included an obligatory weekly meeting with a social worker. The results are impressive: over two-thirds of those who have left the scheme have been able to find work, housing, a rehabilitation centre or a reintegration community.
Emmaus Alternatives is responsible for setting up the first solidarity lockers for homeless people in France. In partnership with the city of Montreuil, near Paris, and the Portuguese Association ACA, 12 lockers were installed in October 2018, and an additional 12 in November 2020.
With its simplicity and immediate positive impact, this project complements the work Emmaus Alternatives has carried out since 1991, supporting people living on the streets, or those alienated from the labour market, in accessing their rights and finding employment.
Far from keeping people on the street, this project is a new reintegration tool, targeting those who are most excluded. Indeed, although the solidarity lockers aim to meet a specific, fundamental need, the social support work and the social links created around access to these lockers are essential for forging a path to gradually help people get off the streets, following a step-by-step process.