FRANCE

Anti-homeless fences built around benches spark uproar

The city of Angouleme in southwestern France is trying to deal with the problem of homeless people.
The city of Angouleme in southwestern France is trying to deal with the problem of homeless people. Franco Folini

The decision by the local council of a town in southwest France to put fences around public benches, a day before Christmas, to prevent homeless people from using them sparked uproar Thursday.

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The right leaning UMP local council of Angouleme, a town in southwest France, said it took this decision in conjunction with shopkeepers from a neighbourhood where benches “are almost exclusively used by people who consume alcohol on a regular basis everyday”.

The shopkeepers also pointed out that the presence of these homeless people brought down the number of customers.

Many people living in Angouleme said they were deeply offended by this measure that “lacked humanism” during the Christmas holidays.

“Guantanamo? No, no, Angouleme,” mocked one person on the internet while other people threatened they would boycott the city’s comics book festival.

“What a shame, this is not France,” former socialist MP Guillaume Garot said.

Responding to these criticisms, the director of the mayor’s cabinet did not rule out the possibility to remove the fences after noticing some dysfunctions, without questioning however the foundation of his initiative.

The deputy in charge of security Jean Guiton had already explained that the fact these fences had been installed a day before Christmas was a pure coincidence, adding that this measure was part of a bigger plan to guarantee the city's security.

 

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