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Personalised support projects by the Petits Frères des Pauvres in St. Denis

Summary : Since 2000, volunteers from the Saint-Denis branch of Petits Frères des Pauvres (Little Brothers of the Poor) has offered home visits, a weekly welcome in a venue, telephone support and group activities to old people suffering from loneliness, poverty, exclusion and serious diseases.

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  • Start date : 2000
  • Implementation site : St Denis
  • Budget : 43200 €
  • Source and details on funding : Grants and subsidies from local authorities. 170,000 regular donors for the entire association.




Editorial committee

  • Date of proofreading :  14/04/2015
Opinion of the Committee : Source of inspiration !
Solution(s) : Social exclusion and isolation
Country :  France, Île-de-France
Stature of the programme :  Local
Participant :  Association, ONG
  • Beneficiaries :  Senior Citizens
  • Domain : 

Copyright: Licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ )
To reference a document published by RESOLIS : Williatte Jean-Baptiste , « Personalised support projects by the Petits Frères des Pauvres in St. Denis », **Journal RESOLIS** (2015)

Background to the programme

The association, the petits frères des Pauvres, was created at the end of the war by Armand Marquiset in 1946. It identifies older people as the poorest in society. Its first priority was to provide them with food in a period of rationing. Gradually the association mutated and dedicated itself to the problems of the modern world: the loneliness of the elderly. Social isolation is not a definable reality but above all is a feeling of loneliness and uselessness. The petits frères des Pauvres set themselves up in Saint-Denis at the request of the City Council in 2000.

Objectives of the programme

- Support of elderly people living in poverty to remedy their social isolation

- Provide personalised support

Implemented actions

* PUBLIC TARGETED: prioritise people over 60 with low incomes who are isolated and volunteer to be accompanied. It could be people living alone, in a housing centre or a retirement home.

-In most cases, people are directed to us by social partners (CCAS, Clic et Logement-Foyer Basilique in the Floreal neighbourhood)

-The volunteers meet people directed to us at to their home to fill in a notification report.

- The decisions to put support in place are taken collectively in committee.

- Weekly visits at home or in group accommodation in a 3x3 configuration. Each week, 3 volunteers visit 3 old people in turn.

- Hosting at the venue for the elderly who have the desire and strength to go there. 4 volunteers welcome up to 18 people every Monday afternoon.

- Phone support: Throughout the year, volunteers call people who do not want home visits twice a week. 2 volunteers for 7 people.

* COLLECTIVE ACTIONS: one off events (Christmas Eve, Christmas presents ...), regular activities (restaurant meal with the petits frères des Pauvres in Paris, meals at the premises, monthly outings in small groups ...), holidays (10 days each year on full board) and personalised projects if necessary (family trips abroad, social/administrative/financial support and rehousing in the petits frères Foundation rented property...)

Quantitative and qualitative results from the implemented actions

- 72 struggling, elderly people supported: a majority of them are women born between 1920 - 1940, half of whom live at home and the other half in collective accommodation

- In most cases, people benefit from only 1 of the 3 forms of support. In all cases, they have a link with a volunteer at least once a week.

- Support lasts until the end of the person’s life (between 2000 - 2015, only 3 decisions to end support were taken).

- In 2016, three people rehoused

- Relationship of trust (often a real friendship)

Original characteristics

The support proposed derives its originality from its way of grasping the social issue. The petits frères des Pauvres seek to give "flowers before bread", that is to say, provide emotional support. Social assistance is not addressed from the perspective of utility but through the issues of personality, dignity and the right of everyone to socialise. Therefore emotional independence is targeted before material independence: this is the basis of how to rebuild individuals to cope with their daily lives more calmly.

Partnership(s) developed in the context of the programme

City Council of Saint-Denis, Centre Communal d’Action Sociale (CCAS) et Centre Local d’Information et de Coordination, réseau Equip’Age, partnered associations (Secours Populaire, Secours Catholique, Secours Islamique, Conférences Saint-Vincent de Paul en particulier), Logement-Foyer AREPA Basilique. The petits frères employee is a member of the board for CCAS de Saint-Denis and for the association Sillage (Clic).


Difficulties and/or obstacles encountered during the programme’s implementation :

- Recruiting volunteers is a recurring problem: many of them are in insecure situations which does not allow them to engage over the long term.

- The reserve and weakness of elderly people stops them from putting their wishes forward.

- The social and administrative situations are sometimes very complicated to support.

Solutions used to overcome the difficulties and/or obstacles :

- Monthly coordination with social workers from the City Council in order to put in place complementary support consultations.

- People who fall outside of the criteria are redirected to the partners.

- 17 new volunteers recruited in 2015

- Training of volunteers

Suggestions for future improvement :

Investigate the types of volunteers in order to identify the promising pools of recruitment

Summary of factors responsible for the programme’s success :

- Each person supported benefits from a personalised support project:

> the decision to set up support is taken in consultation with the people supported and the volunteers from the Evaluation Commission which determine the form of support most suited to the needs, wishes and capacity of each person

> Creation of a personalised report for complicated situations (document of about thirty pages written by intern assistants from social services)

> Evolving projects: the living situation of the person supported is regularly reassessed by the volunteers on the team and the employee. The team meetings are a real support to volunteers and allow the support projects to be adapted.

- The 3x3 system for home visits allows for different points of view and avoids dependent relationships.

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