Saturday, December 03, 2005

Without shelter

Paris is populated by countless invisible people, people whom the average middle class person does not even see. How often have I gotten off a metro and walked past some bundle of gray clothes nodding off on the bench in the dusty but warm metro station, sheltering from the vicious winter.

During the early hours of the morning rush hour, homeless individuals camp out in their sleeping bags on filthy floors of metro stations while middle-aged suited men trundle off to work barely blinking an eye.

The French call them the SDF, that is, sans domicile fixe, loosely translated as “without fixed abode” or “without fixed address”. This seems to imply that they do not have just one address, but many addresses, or “abodes”! In other words, this person just cannot make up his or her mind where he/she wants to live…today this address, tomorrow, another address. Either way, it seems to mean that this person has at least one home.

The SDF term just seems to politely candy-coat (and insulate with fairy floss) the harsh reality of the situation. Homeless means that they have no homes, not just a lack of a “fixed” home. At least the Québécois version sans abri, literally translated to “without shelter”, tells it like it is.

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