With the whole of the French Riviera now living under a coronavirus lockdown, confinement is increasingly becoming the new normal with empty streets and increased police control. As the new measures to restrict movement were announced over a week ago, many asked the same question: what is going to happen to the homeless? The Riviera is tackling the issue by opening the doors of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. 

 

The 2020 Cannes Film Festival has been postponed due to coronavirus and it is unclear when, and if, the world’s most prestigious and biggest film festival will take place this year. In the meantime, the famous Palais des Festivals is welcoming the city’s homeless people during the national lockdown. Officials in Cannes are providing 82 beds day and night, meals, showers as well as books, games and television.

 

One man at the festival pavilion spoke to the French TV channel TF1, saying: “I’ve been living on the streets for years, and then there was this problem, so I didn’t know what was going to happen. We don’t have much choice but to wait it out, but it’s fine […] It’s good for us to rest a bit.”

 

 

“A symbol of solidarity”

To avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus, the authorities in Cannes check each person’s temperature and baggage before they enter the pavilion. The beds are placed apart in line with regulations regarding social distancing.

 

“It is a symbol of solidarity,” highlighted Dominique Aude-Lasset, Deputy Director-General of Cannes Public Services. “It can be carried out in a place that is usually reserved for conventions, artistic events. Currently, the priority is the confinement of the most vulnerable.”

 

The Palais will not host the Cannes Film Festival this May due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic. While several options are being considered, there is no guarantee that the film festival will take place this year.

 

Nice seeks to avoid overcrowding 

Although the French government plans to make available an extra 2000 hotel rooms nationwide to house the homeless people, many charities have closed their doors in the face of the health crisis. The Alpes-Maritimes region is one of the only departments to have decided to extend shelters’ hours.

 

In Nice, a volunteer organisation has taken steps to ensure all shelters remain open, yet the number of beds has been reduced to avoid overcrowding. Whereas all of Nice’s shelters are full, the directors of the organisation provided 50 homeless people with accommodation across ten hotels in the city. However, a remaining 130 citizens are still on the streets. French authorities say several dozen homeless people have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.

 

Menton asks hotels to provide shelter 

Along the Mediterranean coast, authorities in Menton have been able to house 12 homeless people in a hotel. The hotel owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he did not wish to be paid for the service, but he receives a compensation for water and electricity.

 

Menton authorities still have 19 homeless people in need of urgent accommodation as they remain vulnerable to the virus when living on the streets. However, the authorities of this Riviera town wish to avoid using its sports halls, claiming that even if the beds respect the distance of one meter between each one, confined spaces lead to an increased risk of contagion.

 

People who go outside in France need to carry a certificate declaring the reason for their trip, and risk a 135-euro fine if they cannot provide one.