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Emergency shelter: a modified system following the closure of the Caserne des Vernets

With the closure of the Caserne des Vernets last weekend, the City of Geneva’s emergency shelter system will focus on three sites: the Frank-Thomas accommodation centre together with the Châtelaine and Richemont Civil Defence shelters. In total, these sites offer 230 places, which is more than the number of places last year at the same time of year.

Mains d'un homme tenant un verre

The situation was announced in June. To ensure the continuity of the emergency shelter system, the City has kept 130 places in the Frank-Thomas accommodation centre open since 20 March. This centre has individual rooms where it welcomes men and women suffering from physical or mental difficulties. The City has also opened 2 Civil Defence shelters, each boasting 50 places and open to men. In total, with the contribution of associative partners subsidised by the City, this makes a total of 330 places, some 37 places more than last year at the same period, when 293 places were available.

The City has coped with a major health emergency

Echoing the reaction of the partner associations following the closure of the Caserne des Vernets, the magistrate responsible, Christina Kitsos, notes that in absolute terms, “one person living in the street is one person too many”. She also recalls that the centre in les Vernets – non-compliant with the norms – was made available on a temporary basis by the cantonal authorities and paid for entirely by the City of Geneva to cope with an unprecedented health crisis.

The aim initially set was achieved, as the shelter provided to those concerned helped stem the spread of the virus within this particularly vulnerable population.

In total, from 1 April to 30 August, the Social Service was able to monitor 18 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection as well as 35 suspected cases and 18 contact cases.

During this period, the Caserne des Vernets and the Centre de Frank-Thomas accommodated some 1,224 different people for a total of 44,014 nights.

During the same period, while associations were forced to limit the number of people housed in their own facilities or, in some cases, to close their doors, the City provided appropriate care by:

  • relaying the sleep-in facilities;
  • separating the different groups of the population (women, ill people, people infected / suspected of being infected with COVID and COVID contact cases);
  • providing people not sleeping in our structures with showers at a sports facility.

The Administrative Councillor believes that it is clear proof that, “in emergency situations, the City of Geneva assumes its responsibilities.” Moving forward, it has announced renewed dialogue with the associative partners, in particular with regard to supporting two flagship projects focusing on the reinsertion of homeless women and the prevention of loss of housing.

At the end of a call for projects, CHF 200,000 were paid to the Association 6Logis to enable 10-16 women, with and without children, to be housed in two large apartments and a number of studios.

It is essential to prevent people from being evicted. The Department of Social Cohesion and Solidarity has therefore decided to support the new Association pour la Sauvegarde du logement des précaires, which has been created to prevent evictions. This association provides advice, administrative accompaniment for the people concerned and mediation with accommodation providers through the contribution of the ASLOCA.

A hotline will be set up soon. People in need can call 077 511 72 92.

For a vision of homelessness and its social impact

To complete its experience in this field stretching back almost 20 years, the City will provide a complete study on the issue of homelessness. At present, we do not have any reliable statistics either at national or cantonal level. The DSCS will thus commission experts to provide quantitative elements together with a status report focusing on demand in light of the supply available in Geneva. This will serve as a snapshot of the needs of the different population groups created according to a typology recognised on an international level, a comparative analysis of the mechanisms in place in similar-sized cities throughout Switzerland and Europe and a series of recommendations designed to meet the needs expressed, with avenues to be explored in terms of governing the mechanisms and allocating the tasks to the different public operators and associations.


Manuelle Pasquali de Weck

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Tél. +41 22 418 49 13


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Article modifié le 03.09.2020 à 16:15