Omar Havana

Photographer
    
Bonjour, Paris
Location: Paris, France
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: Omar Havana, 1975 Granada, Spain. Spanish Freelance Photojournalist. Based in Paris, France. Previously based in Asia. ( Nepal 2014-2015 and Cambodia 2008 - 2014 ; 2015-2017) Omar has worked as a professional photojournalist since 2005, and since... read on
"The meaning of the other and love have disappeared from this society. Without money, people do not exist." - Jean, a 33-year-old homeless man living on the streets of Paris.

At least 3,000 people are thought to be living on the streets of Paris this winter, more than half of whom are believed to have been born outside of France. According to France's National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), in 2014, the number of homeless adults in the Paris Metropolitan Area had increased by 84 percent in the proceeding decade. Some of that growth has been attributed to the 2008 financial crisis, some to the large numbers of migrants and refugees making their way to the French capital and some to the failure of salaries to keep up with the rising cost of living, particularly the cost of buying or renting a home.

According to INSEE, 16.1 percent of Parisians - roughly 463,000 people - live below the poverty line, with an average monthly income of 747 euros ($848.65), which is 261 euros ($296.52) less than the poverty threshold. The result is that having a job no longer offers protection against homelessness. Fifty-year-old Kemal understands this all too well. He used to be a taxi driver, but health issues led to him losing his job. "I have earned salaries of over 2,000 euros ($2,272) in the past, but Paris is an expensive city and I could not pay my debts," he recalls. "Today, I have lost everything and my health problems will not allow me to dream of a better future." Now, Kemal sleeps beneath a shelter made from scraps of plastic in a square on the outskirts of the city."But I do not lose hope and I keep working hard every day to improve my life and to be able to earn some money to one day travel to a country with the sun every day. The cold and rain are worsening my health condition," he adds.

"Without money, we do not exist anymore in France," explains Eddy, a 35-year-old homeless man from Tunisia who originally came to France in search of a better life. That dream now lies shattered on the streets of the capital. But studies have shown that Parisians tend to have more sympathetic attitudes towards the homeless than residents of many other European cities. According to a 2009 study, 75 percent of French people felt some degree of solidarity with those sleeping on the streets and 56 percent said they could imagine one day being in the same position.
Every night, dozens of volunteers patrol the city's streets 'en maraudes', searching out those in need of a blanket, paracetamol or just a conversation."In Paris, it is impossible to die from hunger. There are so many good organizations providing us with a free meal every day," says Hicham, a homeless man who is originally from Morocco and carries with him a book that Paris' City Hall has created listing the social services available to those in need. But according to campaign group Morts de la Rue, 400 homeless people died across France in 2017. Many organizations believe the real number to be much higher.

"Some ask for money, some for food. Cold is our worst enemy," explains Nasser, a homeless man originally from Algeria. "But the indifference of the people is an obstacle that is difficult to overcome."The solitude of our lives can happen to anyone. The people of Paris need to understand that we just want a smile or a simple 'bonjour'. That can make a cold day not be hell for us." A fan of the writer Victor Hugo and the artist Picasso, Nasser explains: "There is beauty in every corner of our lives, but this society has lost sensibility. Ideas have disappeared and money is making this society blind to love."Across Europe, the far-right is on the rise and it has some of the continent's most diverse communities in its crosshairs. To the far right, these neighborhoods are 'no-go zones' that challenge their notion of what it means to be European. To those who live in them, they are Europe. 

With thanks to the team and volunteers of Secours CatholiqueMedecins Du MondeSecours Populaire and Association Aurore who helped make this article possible. 

Part of this story was done on assignment for Al Jazeera English
498

By Omar Havana —

VISUAL STORY

Endurance

By Omar Havana / Nepal — On April 25th, 2015 a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal, leaving almost 9,000 people dead, 22,000..
VISUAL STORY

35 years searching for justice in Cambodia

By Omar Havana / Phnom Penh — Close to two million people were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, a generation lost in a..
VISUAL STORY

CEMENTery

By Omar Havana / Kampong Trach — Millions of years ago, a cluster of coral reefs stood firm here as the water receded, leaving them..
VISUAL STORY

The Bucolic Life of a Cambodian Grandmother Accused of Mass Killings

By Omar Havana / Anlong Veng, cambodia — In this dusty mountain hamlet on the Thai border, she is known as Grandma Chaem. The tiny 74-year-old lives..
VISUAL STORY

They Smashed Banks for Pol Pot. Now They’re Founding Them

By Omar Havana / Malai cambodia — When the Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1979, they retreated to strongholds like Malai on the western fringes..
VISUAL STORY

Breaking tradition among Nepal's Maithil women

By Omar Havana / Janakpur, Nepal — Like many women in the Maithil community in Nepal, Manjula Thakur found her life severely restricted and..
VISUAL STORY

Trapped: the Dark Side of Cambodia's Beer Gardens

By Omar Havana / Siem Reap — Throughout Cambodia, thousands of women, most of them under the age of 25, work in beer gardens, karaoke..
VISUAL STORY

When the Earth Shook Nepal

By Omar Havana / Nepal — A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25th, 2015, shaking the already-impoverished nation to its..
VISUAL STORY

A woman's Cry: The detention of Tep Vanny

By Omar Havana / Phnom Penh — Tep Vanny is Cambodia’s most famous activist and the leader of the women of Boeung Kak Lake, who..
VISUAL STORY

Devotees of the Ink

By Omar Havana / Nakhom Pathom — Once a year, thousands of people from all over Thailand travel to the Wat Bang Phra temple, located about..
VISUAL STORY

Inside a Cambodian Slaughterhouse

By Omar Havana / Siem Reap — In a country where the demand for meat is ever-increasing and where pork is generally favored,..
VISUAL STORY

The Way

By Omar Havana / Greece — More than 100,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece since the beginning of 2016. They cross the..
VISUAL STORY

The Khmer Fighters

By Omar Havana / Siem Reap — Pradal Serey or Kun Khmer -free fighting- is an unarmed martial art from Cambodia. Compared to other forms..
VISUAL STORY

My Country Is My Family

By Omar Havana / Nepal — Surrounded by stunning forest, Beldangi is an example of how a refugee camp should be. Only one banner and..
VISUAL STORY

Evicting Dreams: The Last Days of the White Building

By Omar Havana / Phnom Penh — On June 6th, the faces of the residents of the White Building showed the sadness of what were their..
VISUAL STORY

The Angkor Hell

By Omar Havana / Siem Reap — Just a few dozen kilometers away from the world-famous Angkor temples, about 300 people have lived for the..
VISUAL STORY

La Vie En Jaune

By Omar Havana / Paris, — Hundreds of thousands of “Gilet Jaunes” (meaning “Yellow Vest” in French) have..
Join us
for more access