“It allows me to survive”: every evening, the Abes marauding comes to meet the most deprived in Béziers

“It allows me to survive”: every evening, the Abes marauding comes to meet the most deprived in Béziers

Tous les soirs, les membres de l'Abes distribuent la soupe chaude. Midi Libre – M. A.

Jusqu'au 31 mars, chaque soir, dans le froid, deux salariés de l'association biterroise Abes distribuent soupe chaude, sandwichs, cafés, couvertures, aux plus précarisés et marginalisés. 

It's just a few minutes past 6 p.m. On the Place de la Madeleine, in the heart of Béziers, Patrick and  Dylan, orange vests "Samu social" in the back, are busy in the back of their van. Employees of Abes (Biterroise Mutual Aid and Solidarity Association), they prepare hot soup, coffee, sandwiches and also give blankets as part of the daily marauding, seven days a week, carried out by the association from November 13 to March 31. Silhouettes come to collect their meal without hanging around. Dimce, a former legionnaire, never misses the meeting: "I sleep in the street, that allows me to eat a little and survive", he says.  

"More people with psychiatric problems"

That evening, it was rather calm, Patrick believes. It's the start of the month, "they received the RSA." The maraude will stop at two other points (media library, avenue de Verdun) and will crisscross the city until around 9:45 p.m. Around thirty destitute people will be helped. "Today, there are many more elderly people, young people, and people with psychiatric problems due to the closure of psychiatry beds", indicates the director of Abes. This is a field observation. And that adds up to more or less heavy drug addiction. There are more semi-marginalized people burned by drugs and alcohol. The Epinal image of the tramp no longer exists. And we can clearly see the precariousness of society,” continues the director. 

The complete emergency shelter

The Abes home has 20 emergency accommodation places which are all occupied, at the association's headquarters, rue William and Catherine Booth. In the event of a severe cold plan (it has not been activated to date), 8 additional beds are open at the day reception, avenue de Verdun. If a serious emergency situation is identified, after calling 115, the association can provide shelter by adding a camp bed to the home.  " We ask if the person wants to come, we don't force it because it's their last freedom, specifies the director. "And it's an unconditional welcome." Only a name is requested. "We are a public service, funded by the State, the Department and the City". 

A little later, below the Place du 14-Juillet, many of them were waiting for the arrival of the marauding force. Maybe a dozen. Like this Polish couple who have been sleeping in a tent for months, next to the canal. Everyone gets a sandwich, a bowl of soup. Here again, few linger. Except for two regulars who happily chat in the darkness. 

"We don't just come for the soup, there's the atmosphere"

"We come every day, I'm poor and vegetarian, a little soup is perfect". His sidekick continues: "I had my hat pulled at the Post Office this morning…" Without a word, Patrick returns with a woolen hat and gives it to him. Before confiding to the first: "Saturday and Sunday, I'll have a cheese sandwich for you." The cold begins to numb the feet. Where will they sleep tonight ? "I have a roof over my head, an unlivable apartment, I receive the RSA but it's short. So the soup is welcome, it saves me time and money… But we don't just come for the soup, there's the atmosphere, that does me a lot of good ." We hear from each other, we exchange small talk and confidences. "My wife died in 2020, it was my dog ​​who saved me…" 

In principle, the raid is aimed at the homeless but many people who have a home but live in great precariousness show up. No one is refused. 

Note that the raid is financed by the State to the tune of 67,575 € (compared to 103,780 euros in 2023). It is joined by other associations on certain days of the week, such as the Table de Malte. 

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