At the Porte de la Chapelle, in Paris, the “new HQ” of crack users

At the Porte de la Chapelle, in Paris, the “new HQ” of crack users

Dozens of people are waiting, seated along a low wall, under the motorway interchange at Porte de la Chapelle, in Paris. On this freezing Monday morning in January, crack users wait for the opening of the rest area at the border of 18e arrondis*****t. They can sleep there, have breakfast, a hot drink and a shower, wash their clothes or be accompanied in their administrative procedures.

The place, co-managed by the Aurore and Gaïa-Paris associations, opened its doors in 2019, after the evacuation of the “crack hill”, a few meters away. But it is since the dismantling by the forces of order of the square Forceval camp, near the Porte de la Villette, on October 5, 2022, that it is experiencing its highest attendance. Until then, the fifteen employees on site welcomed between 80 and 100 people a day. Since then, the counters have approached 300 visitors. “We meet here all the people we saw in Forcevalassures a consumer. It became the new HQ. »

Inside this “Villette 2”, it is technically forbidden to smoke or dealer. Many override this rule with more or less discretion. On the sidewalk outside, the crack cakes – a cocaine derivative cut with ammonia and very addictive, which burns on a filter at the end of a pipe (or doser) – are smoked at the sight of all. There are all nationalities and all ages. The majority are between 25 and 44 years old, depending on the age they give at the reception and which is not verified, just like their name. Their paths are multiple, but always marked by a traumatic event: the death of a loved one, a dismissal, a divorce, a migration.

Read the testimonials: Article reserved for our subscribers “Hell is not that thing with the flames and the devil, it’s our lives”: meeting crack users at Porte de la Villette

In the conversations, we talk about what we went through to get there, the times when we were close to death, the galleys of the night in the street. And especially drugs. The pebble replaces boredom in these often jobless lives. It helps to forget the problems. “I consume a lot because life is too hard”, Ibrahim breathes (consumers named only by first name requested anonymity), used dispenser in hand and Los Angeles Lakers cap on his head. This Guinean, who arrived in France eight years ago, now lives in a shelter in Paris. “We don’t want this life either. We didn’t cross several countries to sit on a low wall and smoke crack all day. But we arrive in a country that we don’t know, where we can’t work: inevitably, people fall into it “explains the 30-year-old.

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