“We met here,” says Philippe, all smiles. Seated with Maria, Didier, Marcel, Laure and Greg, the “group of friends” meet almost every evening, to “share a meal, talk nonsense and put the world to rights”. Here is the Jules-Julien senior club, avenue de Rangueil. Since October 2021, the town hall has made this room available to Restos du Coeur, which welcomes around sixty guests seven evenings out of seven: a first for the association, which traditionally distributes its hot evening meals via trucks set up in the middle of the street.
Beneficiaries can thus dine sheltered from the rain or view, enjoy a discussion and release the pressure. They are mostly men. “French, foreigners, they come from all walks of life. We have a lot of seniors, a few families, but also precarious young people,” explains Hervé Le Floch, head of street activities for Restos du cœur 31. While most opt for the conviviality of the room, around a third prefer to leave. or eat on site but outside. So as not to exclude them, distribution is always done outside.
Glued to the room, the Léon Viala petanque club saw these new neighbors arrive with a suspicious eye. In the restaurant queues, tensions are regular and can go as far as fights; promiscuity can be stormy. “At the start, there was misunderstanding, explains François Marin, president of the club, and we even had an altercation following a scratched car. But now it’s going well! There is rather curiosity, interest. We know that the project will continue and we have nothing against it,” says the bowler. The three-month experiment is extended without an end date.
Another place soon?
The device is unique in Toulouse… and perhaps in France. If in Paris there were already some “hot restaurants” on sites with a room with a kitchen, “to my knowledge, the fact of using a municipal hall every evening had never been done”, specifies Hervé Le Floch .
Could the system expand? The town hall has about fifteen senior restaurants and is favorable, but other constraints must be taken into account. For this initiative, the Restos have moved distribution from Grand-Rond to Rangueil; changing another place of distribution could penalize beneficiaries. And opening a new site poses the problem of recruitment: despite the 420 volunteers who take turns in the Pink City, “the arms are still missing, especially on Saturdays”, notes Hervé Le Floch.
In addition to providing dinner to 350 people each evening, organizing distributions of food parcels during the day, solidarity marauding or even integration projects, the Restos du 31 are multiplying innovative and committed projects. Next step: reach out to poorly housed people by providing them with services, especially those who are housed far from the city centre.