“Besoin d’un toi”, the French solidarity Airbnb for the homeless

Home pages on the future application “Besoin d’un toi”. © Vivien Wack

An Airbnb for the roofless, here is the summary (a little spectacular) of the initiative of a teacher at Bordeaux university, South-West of France. “Besoin d’un toi”, the application he is launching this month in beta version, in any case interests the French presidency and even the pope!

It all stemmed from “Merci pour l’invit’”

Pascal Pistone got the idea of proposing “Besoin d’un toi” (In need of you) to create social bonds. He is one of the initiators of the Facebook page Merci pour l’invit‘—thanks for the invitation—(4,000 friends), that thinks about solutions against exclusion. Projects were born, “such as Au clair de la rue, a choir for homeless people and volunteers in Bordeaux”, he explains. Most of the participants found accommodation or a job thanks to this. “It’s the same idea behind Besoin d’un toi”, adds Pascal Pistone.

Besoin d’un toi uses the same recipe that made the success of Airbnb or Blablacar: putting people in contact with each other. “With the possibility of adding comments, explains Pascal. A single woman who wishes to accommodate a woman with a child will be able to set up an initial meeting around a cup of coffee.” On the application, you will be able to offer a meal, an appointment with the hairdresser, cover the cost of hotel accommodations… or a room for the night.

A researcher and three computer engineers

Sandrine Décembre, researcher at the French university of Franche-Comté (whom Pascal met via the Facebook group), is managing the development of the application with three of her former students, Antoine Mary, Jonathan Sobota and Vivien Wack. This militant of the cause for people with inadequate housing organized for instance a with migrants in the Grande-Synthe camp (North of France, near Calais) or a “party for homeless people” in Bordeaux. “Since the project started, we are dealing with 300 to 500 offers per day. People are ready!” she says with enthusiasm.

The application arouses interest de facto. The communication department of the Elysee asked to see her. And next week, Pascal will have a meeting with the pope! “We are mostly secular here, says Pascal Pistone, but if the Vatican plans to have an Italian version…”

One of the instruction pages of the future application Besoin d’un toi. © Vivien Wack

Developers welcome

There are however several small issues to deal with… Finding (and financing) a server that can handle the load. Allowing homeless people to access the application (they don’t all have smartphones, even though Pascal Pistone relies on the “solidarity effect”). Finding help for moderation, via an association that would support the project. Furthermore, explains Sandrine Décembre, “Antoine, our developer, is a genius but he also has job.” Volunteer developers also welcome!

In order to help Besoin d’un toi, contact Sandrine Décembre or Pascal Pistone

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