The hospital of the street. It is in the heart of a care unit for the homeless that the photographer Cyril Zannettacci witnesses in 2021, the outbreak of the Covid19 epidemic.
Located in Nanterre, at the gates of Paris, the Homeless Shelter (CHAPSA), a unique place in France, welcomes and accompanies homeless people in a care process. With its abandoned hospital look, the center has been welcoming homeless people since the end of the 19th century. Originally, it was a prison to keep beggars away. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that it became the center we know today: a place for exiles, precarious workers and women fleeing violence. Not having the same resources, nor the same reputation as traditional medicine, social medicine suffers from a considerable lack of tools, budgets and staff. Rationing or even the disappearance of certain hygiene products, dilapidated premises, toilets that have been closed for months, a night team reduced to one nurse and one nurse’s aide for 48 patients…
As head of the medical service, Dr. Valerie Thomas is close to giving up her lab coat: today this hybrid establishment is on the verge of breaking up. She deplores not only the “State’s contempt for those who care for the poorest”, but also the injustice linked to the deterioration of services, which has reached its peak since the epidemic. She “sees, as do her teams, the gap that separates social medicine from conventional medicine in our health system (…) it is not easy to find subsidies for our public, which has no political weight. It is always easier financially to run a clinic in Neuilly than a center for the homeless in Nanterre.
Each wave of contamination is a new ordeal for the hospital and its reduced staff, which is less and less able to cope with the conditions in which it works. A Covid unit receiving cases infected by the virus during the pandemic had to close the following year because of the insufficient number of nursing staff. On the verge of burnout, those who remain are struggling to continue care and protect the health of the homeless. This is not just any place,” warns a doctor in the cafeteria. All the problems of the world today are condensed here.
The quotes are from Romain Jeanticou’s article, L’hôpital de la rue, for Télérama n°3727, 16/06/21