“To look presentable for a work interview the bare minimum, like a roof over your head and a bathroom to wash and groom yourself, is indispensable.”
CHARLY, 57 years old
Mental well being requires, among other things, to be able to relax once in a while. Everyone, and that includes the poor, the sick and the homeless, has the right to time off… Vacations should not depend on income.
From a long-standing practice of fulfilling pressing material needs linked to the survival of homeless people, our partner, the Carrefour-Rue Association, learnt that well-being is not just about shelter, food and work. To quote Nöel Constant, President of the Association: “Most of the times, the real issue is not in the stomach, but rather in the mind of the people”.
Experiencing positive social relations, like being involved in recreational activities in a communitarian space, is a meaningful way to restore trust in others and constructive feelings in those who have been “forgotten” and marginalized by society.
The city of Geneva kindly granted the project a green field in the outskirts of Geneva. There, easily reachable by public transport, lies The Hameau des Chemineaux, also known as the ‘Club Med for the homeless’.
The Hameau village was developed on the principle that people living in disadvantaged socio-economic conditions have, as everyone else, the right to vacation and rest. Vacation to us means having the opportunity of taking a break from the daily routine, pressures, shortages and frustrations, and enjoying some leisure time.
The village is composed of various trailers that have been decorated and updated to serve as workshops and entertainment areas. It lies in the middle of a forest area, which provides a relaxing, natural atmosphere.
At the Hameau, visitors are offered various recreational activities, as well as food. Games of chess, pétanque, soccer, and weekly activities such as cinema, concerts or embroidery are available, as are the dining hall, grill and the new wood-fired pizza oven.
According to the project’s philosophy, beneficiaries decide the majority of the activities and are always helped by social workers.
Especially during the summer, different outdoor activities are proposed to the guests on a weekly basis: Cinema, biking, soccer matches, concerts, poetry readings, and the now traditional “campfire guitar” nights.
Embroidery, painting and other creative workshops that are held indoors, are available all-year-round thanks to the renewable energy heating system installed.
For those who may require it, the village has also got sleeping capacity for 10. These guests are allowed to stay for short periods of time and usually help take care of the installations and gardens.
For 7 years, the project has promoted the psychological and emotional well-being of the homeless people of Geneva.
Volunteers and social workers have been inspired to organize special events born out of their own initiative. These include special meals, small concerts, gospel choirs, and the “campfire guitar” nights that are so enjoyed by the guests.
Huge inaugural parties with music always launch the opening and closing of the Summer season. These events usually gather more than 100 attendants. Summer activities are proposed to the guests on a weekly basis and always manage to count on 15 to 30 participants.
Some beneficiaries have now started to take on responsibilities. A few of them are in charge of specific tasks and recreational activities, such as: cooking, gardening, photography, sports competitions.
People at the Hameau des Chemineaux can also work, and are incentivized to show their competences and skills. Some building sites are organized by volunteers who are there for a day. Two beneficiaries built a wood-fired brick oven, while others restored a mobile home. Some of them worked on the construction of a mini-golf course. Generally speaking, all guests join in to keep the place clean and cozy.