Préfet Vincent Berton is given a tour of Le Manteau by Director Audrey Gil (right) on Tuesday, first inspecting the kitchen. (Robert Luckock photo)
MARIGOT--The primary shelter in St. Martin for people in distress, Le Manteau, officially inaugurated emergency accommodation for men on Tuesday with a visit by Préfet Vincent Berton and Secretary General Fabien Sésé.
The shelter, which has been operating under the umbrella of Association Laïque pour l’Education, la Formation, la Prévention et l’Autonomie (ALEFPA) since 2021, is located in the old hospital on Rue Fort Louis and responds to a growing need to support marginalised people in distress due to homelessness, social difficulties, poverty and domestic violence (the latter against women in particular). Nineteen employees work at the shelter.
Since June 5, accommodation is now available in emergencies for 10 men in vulnerable situations. It consists of four simple but clean rooms, one with four single beds, one with three single beds, one with two single beds, and one room with one bed. The rooms are complemented by shared bathrooms. There are 12 rooms for women who can stay in the shelter for more than a week, or until their situation improves.
Le Manteau-ALEFPA Director Audrey Gil gave the elected officials a tour of the shelter before sitting down for a press conference with Sésé and ALEFPA administrator Hélène Micot-Bride to give the press more details of the shelter’s work.
It was disclosed that the 115 free help-line for accommodation is in demand 90-95% per cent of the time, with the average age of persons using the shelter at 45. Elderly persons also find themselves without lodging for various reasons and young people who are victims of family dysfunction.
There was testimony from Alexis Dosithee (23) who for 1½ years had been someone of “no fixed abode” or in French “sans domicile fixe” (SDF), but was able to turn his life around thanks to the help of Le Manteau and was then assisted by Mission Locale.
Among the shelter’s many social functions, it serves around 40 meals per day for people in precarious situations. Each week 60 food baskets are distributed. Gil acknowledged that there are homeless people who live in “mini ghettos” in Marina Port La Royale and Agrément. They come to the shelter for food and they are visited by the Red Cross, but there is no definitive solution yet.
“The problem is that we need more shelters like this in St. Martin to accommodate these people,” said Berton. “We are asking the Collectivité to build more housing for this kind of problem.”
The emergency accommodation for men has been financed by the State for 125,000 euros. The accommodation is likely to be increased soon to 14 places.