The NYTimes Continues to Minimize the French Homeless Crisis

Posted by John Rosenthal

The following from an article on French homelessness in today’s NYTimes by the Times’s man in Paris, Craig S. Smith. 

Given France’s well-financed social services, the country’s homeless problem is relatively mild — the national statistics bureau estimated the number of people living without a fixed address on any one night at 86,000 for all of France in 2004, about equal to the number of homeless in Los Angeles alone. But even that number is disturbing for the socially active segment of France’s population.

This reassuringly low official French homelessness figure of 86,000 is widely-cited in the docile French media and it is sometimes even dated, as in the NYTimes article, to 2004. In fact, however, it dates from a study conducted by the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies [INSEE] in 2001, i.e. well before the currently ongoing explosion in French homelessness became painfully obvious to anyone walking down a Parisian street (except, evidently, Craig S. Smith). 


Paris, Rue de Rivoli, Fall 2004

Moreover, even when it was first made public in 2002, the 86,000 INSEE figure was criticized for underestimating the real extent of homelessness in France. Anne-Laure Pham, writing in a recent issue of the French weekly L’Express, notes that French charitable associations — already at the time — put the real figure "between 100,000 and 800,000."

Whatever the actual figure is today — and, despite reports of a new INSEE headcount in early 2006, neither the French government, nor French academics seem in any great hurry to clarify the matter — it is surely some multiple of the wildly unrealistic 86,000 figure.

For more on the French homeless crisis — and Craig S. Smith’s remarkable contributions to obscuring its severity — see my July 2006 article on TCS Daily "France’s New Poverty".


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