In Lyon and Villeurbanne, homeless mothers accommodated in “tiny houses”

At the top of the Vaise district, in the 9th arrondissement of Lyon, a small village has just appeared, discreetly located along the railway line. It is made up of about twenty tiny houses, these small rolling houses of 15 to 20 square meters which are usually the delight of “bobos” in the countryside.

There, on the outskirts of the city, the wooden-walled caravans shelter women with their very young children, in a very precarious situation. Toys stored between the little houses brighten up the old industrial land. To the right of the portal, a trailer contains the food reserve. Opposite is the laundry room. At the end of the field, a tiny house is transformed into a mini-crèche, with its games and its Christmas tree.

For a year now, the metropolis of Lyon has been increasing the number of locations of these micro-houses, used as innovative solutions among its emergency accommodation offers. They are offered to a particular audience of homeless people: women with children under 3 years old.

Forty-eight tiny houses were set up in 2021, on two sites open in Lyon (9th) and Villeurbanne. One hundred women and young children benefit from these habitats, which provide social assistance to the most disadvantaged. In Villeurbanne, the site is managed by the association Le MAS. In Vaise, Le foyer Notre-Dame des sans-abri takes care of the support and management of the village called “Les Amazones”, in reference to the Scythian people, advocating equality between men and women.

We feel at Home

The metropolis, run by environmentalist Bruno Bernard, is set to launch three more markets over the next year, targeting women with young children. In the second largest agglomeration in France, 500 women and small children are currently placed in homes or hotels as part of emergency accommodation. There are also 850 unaccompanied minors, falling under the social skills of the metropolis, which has integrated the Rhône department into its geographical area.

In the Amazons village of Vaise, Peggy, Odette and Jeanne finally seem to have found some stability and privacy, after months of wandering between continents and lawless areas. The mothers mostly came from sub-Saharan Africa, following a migration punctuated by painful stages, difficult to recount. Their small 16 square meter houses offer a welcome break.

“We feel at home, at night we fall asleep without fear, we rest. In homes or hotels, I was never quiet, I thought too much, I worried, I did not know what I could become, “says Odette. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the young mother crossed multiple countries, including England, before arriving in Lyon in the summer of 2021, where she experienced the homes of 115 and hotel rooms. “Children play together, mothers meet, imagine activities. The place allows you to enjoy a home and encourages the collective spirit, ”says Sébastien Guth, director of the Notre-Dame homeless home in Lyon.

Effective support

The formula seems particularly suitable for young mothers. Above all, the stability of the place allows effective social support. “Single women with children have a safe space, with the possibility to make meals and organise their lives. When they were in hotels, they were isolated for months, with no open rights, in depersonalised places. This changes a lot in the support we provide to find lasting solutions “, explains Bruno Bernard.