One day during the winter of 1956, a Minister, most likely annoyed by the Abbé Pierre’s public addresses, declares in a national newspaper: “the poor of Abbé Pierre should go sleep under bridges!”
The Companions will then measure the arches of the Sully Bridge in Paris, and start preparing in their workshop, the panels needed to build housings under the arch. One evening, the building is put up under the bridge. Families settle in the available housings. When the police show up to evict them, the Companions show them the newspaper and declare: “we have the Minister’s authorisation, it’s in the newspaper!”
The NGO “Don Quichotte” didn’t invent the concept!
Already in 1956, the Abbé Pierre was having tents installed on the quays of the Seine, in Paris, to raise awareness concerning the problems facing the homeless and draw the attention of public authorities.