Over the course of the past year, RWC has continue to change and develop. We have seen a total of 39 volunteers work with us, and have supported an estimated 400 families.
For the first months of the year, most of the families we supported were in shelters opened by the local mayor in Grande-Synthe, one specifically for families – the CCP - and another that was mixed – a gymnasium. After the CCP closed, the gymnasium became the only indoors shelter option for people sleeping in the Dunkirk area and what at first started as a heavily male dominated space quickly became home to over 60 families over summer. This was a combination of inside shared living and families in tents outside amongst the many tents for men. RWC was able to provide services every day at the gym, from distributions to activity sessions in partnership with Project Play. This shelter remained open for 10 months, and a small but strong community was built. It was far from ideal, with crowded and unsanitary living conditions, but for many women this was where they were able to set up a temporary home.
Working in these indoor community settings allowed us to do more psychosocial support and individual casework. During this time we also developed our advocacy actions, particularly in relation to access to shelter and sanitation. In June, we worked tirelessly on a court case against the central French government to demand access to basic sanitation facilities at the gymnasium.
In July our trusty van broke down, and with the help of our supporters we managed to raise funds for a brand new shiny van! This has allowed us to continue our mobile service supporting up to eight different locations at a time.
In September the gymnasium was evicted and once again in Grande-Synthe, people were forced to live in nearby wooded areas. They are facing now daily evictions, inadequate access to sanitation facilities, and decreasing temperatures. RWC has able to be on the ground daily to support families returning to the area and extend our services to four different state accommodation centres in the Northern France. This winter has been the first where no emergency accommodation in the Dunkirk area has been reopened since 2015, leaving the most vulnerable stuck outside.
In Calais we continue to work in the Secours Catholique day centre, helping to organise weekly activity sessions with the women. The number of single women and families arriving in Calais has increased this year. And even with the support of local citizen accommodations and small projects there have still been a number of women and young children sleeping outside in Calais.
In December we moved to a new warehouse space with our partners Collective Aid and Project Play, and continue to build and maintain with other important partners in Northern France whose support is vital to our work.
This year alone we have seen: 39 volunteers, a new van, a new warehouse, and an exciting new collaboration with Maison Sesame – a project working on community shelter for displaced people in Northern France.