Senior Fellow Romane Rozencwajg had been volunteering in a student-led organization with the goal of creating social ties between newly arrived asylum seekers, refugees, and locals. She organized various group activities that created friendships and built a social network. Through this work, Romane and her team came to a realization that it was not possible for people to engage in social relationships if they did not have long term housing security, a longstanding issue for new arrivals. This led to the creation of a new program that collaborates with people living in shared housing, like students, who were willing to offer a spare room or share the cost of rent for an asylum seeker or refugee — offering long-term solutions to people so they can then focus on gaining financial stability.
It was not possible for people to engage in social relationships if they did not have long term housing security.
Over the last few years, Romane became friends with a lot of newly arrived people. Knowing that their living situations were unstable and that the state was not providing enough resources, which caused people to live on the street, moved her to take action. “We realized that it was up to us to create the society we want to live in.” By showing others how they took matters into their own hands to improve the living situations of those who were most vulnerable, they hope to inspire others to participate, as Romane herself was inspired by many other activists.
“We realized that it was up to us to create the society we want to live in.”
Romane and her team were constantly brainstorming about the most effective way to deal with this housing issue. Once the “shared-housing” solution was defined, they decided to find a house in the suburbs of Lyon to rent that could serve as a headquarters for the organization. After realizing the plan was too complicated, Romane and her team instead began to search for rooms in co-houses that were already established in the area. They contacted people who posted that they needed a housemate and presented the project. It was important to Romane and her team to make sure the individuals moving into this shared house had similar values and expectations. The team offer daily support and provide money to cover some living expenses.
“It was important [to Romane and her team]… to make sure the individuals moving into this shared house had similar values and expectations.”
Romane reflected on her project by saying, “I had the opportunity to meet people from different cultural backgrounds and discuss issues such as the social construction of gender and their stereotypically assigned roles through multicultural perspectives.” She found herself enriched by these discussions, as they were respectful yet touched on very critical topics. Shared experiences and working through hardships with her colleagues and those of newly arrivals allowed her to overcome the “cultural” differences highlighted in the media. “When you share everyday experiences, the only thing that matters is the common “humanity,” and you start to see your common identities.”
When you share everyday experiences, the only thing that matters is the common “humanity,” and you start to see your common identities.