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1The homeless population in France has grown and become more diverse over the past decade, with a strong over-representation of migrants and their descendants. As in other areas, these two groups are disadvantaged in terms of access to housing. Analysing the latest French Homeless Survey (Enquête Sans-Domicile) conducted in 2012, Pascale Dietrich-Ragon compares the housing trajectories of men and women who migrated to France, or whose parents migrated to France, with homeless people from the majority population. Do migrants and their descendants have specific characteristics at the outset that explain their housing difficulties? What types of accommodation do they find to keep off the street? The author shows that compared with the homeless from the majority population, certain homeless migrants with specific individual characteristics (women and children) are more frequently given priority for short-term accommodation provided by assistance organizations. For others, their origin lowers their chances of obtaining housing.

2The issues of homelessness [1] and housing deprivation in France have almost always been linked to that of migration (Lévy-Vroelant, 2004). When they arrive in the host country, the poorest migrants tend to find precarious forms of shelter in shantytowns (Pétonnet, 1979), in hotels (Faure and Lévy-Vroelant, 2007), in the homes of fellow nationals (Timéra, 2000), in squats (Bouillon, 2009) or in poor housing (Dietrich-Ragon, 2011). These types of “transitional housing” (Lévy-Vroelant, 2000), however substandard, at least offer an alternative to the street. In the recent period, the percentage of foreigners in the homeless population has risen sharply, from 38% in 2001 to 53% in 2012 (Yaouancq et al., 2013).

3This trend can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, urban renewal schemes have led to the virtual disappearance of slum areas (Barou, 1999), where migrants used to find their first roof. Moreover, public policies on the admission of foreigners have become increasingly restrictive. Due to a lack of facilities and services designed specifically for migrants, there is a growing influx of migrants into emergency hostels and homeless shelters (D’Halluin-Mabillot, 2012; Urhy, 2007). Lastly, the breakdown of traditional community solidarity (Sayad, 1999; Timéra, 1997) may be a factor in the isolation of some migrants, who feel abandoned when they arrive in France. Moreover, the new waves of migrants come from countries with no established French diaspora, so community organizations (such as associations or churches) may not yet exist. Pervasive origin-based discrimination on the rental housing market (Pan Ké Shon and Scodellaro, 2011) [2] is yet another contributing factor to migrant homelessness.

4Previous studies have highlighted the links between migration and homelessness (Brousse, 2006a), but the specificities of the homeless migrant population remain under-researched. [3] This article therefore proposes to analyse the social and housing trajectories of migrant populations deprived of permanent housing, and the place they occupy in the short-term accommodation sector, which we know to be segmented, hierarchical and competitive (Brousse, 2006b; Gardella, 2014; Soulié, 1997). Moreover, in a context of discrimination against migrants’ descendants on the labour and housing markets (Meurs et al., 2005), it is useful to investigate the particular situation of French-born children of migrants and identify how their trajectories differ from those of migrants and those of the “majority” population born in France to parents who were themselves born in France or in one of the French overseas territories (Appendix A.1).

5In order to answer those questions, this research draws on the 2012 French Homeless Survey (Enquête Sans-Domicile) targeting users of homeless shelters and meal services (Appendix A.2). This research focuses on the individuals with no personal dwelling on the night before the survey, which includes those without shelter, those living in hostels run by assistance organizations, squatters, people staying with friends and relatives, and those paying for hotel accommodation. [4] People who rented or owned a home but who answered the questionnaire because they used a meal service [5] were therefore excluded. Three groups were identified on the basis of origin (Appendix A.1): individuals from the “majority” population (37% of respondents), descendants of migrants with at least one parent born abroad (19%), [6] and migrants (40%). [7] Since the latter two groups account for just 12% and 10%, respectively, of the population residing in France (Beauchemin et al., 2016), it is striking that they account for a majority of the homeless population.

6Section I analyses the differences between the three groups in terms of socio-demographic characteristics, trajectories and access to services. Section II looks more closely at the situation of migrants by distinguishing between those who have previously had a personal dwelling in France and those who have not. For those who have never had housing, homelessness is a direct corollary of migration. The factors forcing them to live on the sidelines of French society are examined. Attention will then shift to migrants who have lost their homes (Dietrich-Ragon, 2013a), i.e. those who once had a “position” on the French housing market but subsequently lost it. What events contribute to housing loss and what factors – family solidarity or institutions – can be mobilized to mitigate such a loss? More broadly, we shall attempt to highlight the unequal chances for these different sub-populations of “getting on the ladder” [8] that leads to housing security, mainly via access to social housing. [9]

7As we shall see, analysing the housing insecurity of migrants and their descendants enables us to pinpoint the specific problems that hamper their access to housing. This research also seeks to point up the limitations of studies that do not identify the homeless by geographical origin. In the United States, origin is almost always taken into account (Blasi, 1994; Burt, 1992; Hopper, 2003; Levinson, 2004; Shinn et al., 2005). By contrast, in France, most studies in this field make no distinctions based on origin, with the risk that individuals in very different situations will be considered as a homogeneous group.

I – Homelessness among migrants and descendants of migrants

8In recent decades, the profile of the homeless population has changed. The image of the vagrant as a jobless single white man (Blasi, 1994; Gaboriau, 1993) is now a thing of the past. New groups have appeared; they are younger, include more women, and are more frequently working, characteristics that often overlap with a foreign origin (Tables 1A and 1B). First, it is important to observe how the homeless migrant population differs from the homeless majority population. We will then look at the specific characteristics of descendants of migrants. While all the respondents are in precarious situations, the types of difficulties they encounter vary with origin: homeless migrants frequently face administrative problems, whereas homeless descendants of migrants more often have a history of family problems.

Table 1

Socio-demographic status, trajectory, income and difficulties by origin (%) in 2012

Socio-demographic status, trajectory, income and difficulties by origin (%) in 2012


Socio-demographic characteristics

Migrants Born in France Migrants who have never had housing Migrants Total Total Descendants Majority Arrived Arrived who have lost less than more than their housing migrants of migrants population 3 months ago 3 months ago Sex Male 87 56 60 59 63 68 63 Female 13 44 40 41 37 32 37 Age 0-30 29 37 14 30 31 28 29 31-40 60 32 36 35 30 16 26 41-50 7 20 24 20 26 25 23 50+ 4 11 25 15 12 32 22 Father’s occupation Farmer 6 9 13 10 2 2 5 Self-employed 30 20 20 21 8 10 14 Intermediate/ higher-level occ. 8 19 24 19 14 22 19 Clerical/sales worker 27 13 12 13 9 15 13 Manual worker 23 33 25 30 56 44 40 Never worked 1 2 1 2 5 1 2 Unknown 6 5 5 5 7 7 6 Educational attainment None 38 32 36 33 33 25 30 Primary 44 36 29 34 52 57 47 Secondary 6 17 16 16 11 11 13 Higher 12 16 19 16 4 7 10 Family status Couple with children 2 23 12 19 5 8 12 Childless couple 3 4 7 5 5 10 8 Single 89 56 62 59 78 75 69 Single with children 6 17 19 17 12 8 12 Marital status Single 46 62 47 57 81 70 66 Married/civil union 48 28 26 29 6 10 18 Widowed 4 2 2 2 1 1 2 Divorced 2 8 26 12 11 19 15 Country of birth France 0 0 0 0 88(a) 100 58 EU-15 4 2 6 3 1 0 1 Enlarged EU 4 5 5 5 0 0 2 Maghreb 23 26 37 29 6 0 13 Other Africa 64 48 41 47 3 0 19 Other Europe + ex-Soviet 2 13 5 10 0 0 4 Other 4 6 6 6 2 0 3 Number observed 86 1,112 494 1,692 655 1,457 3,804

Socio-demographic characteristics

(a) Migrants who arrived in France as children with their parents are classified as descendants of migrants (Appendix A.1).

Employment status and trajectory

Migrants Born in France Migrants who have never had housing Migrants Total Total Descendants Majority Arrived Arrived who have lost less than more than their housing migrants of migrants population 3 months ago 3 months ago Current employment status Working 1 28 25 25 24 19 22 Unemployed 38 35 47 39 58 56 49 Retired 0 1 4 2 2 7 5 Disabled 0 2 6 3 5 6 5 No work permit 47 24 7 21 3 1 9 Other 14 10 11 11 8 10 10 Skill level of current occupation (for those who are working) Unskilled manual 0 27 23 26 20 30 26 Skilled manual 14 15 8 13 7 15 12 Unskilled clerical 0 52 62 55 64 43 53 Skilled clerical 86 1 0 1 3 1 1 Intermediate 0 1 4 2 3 5 3 Higher-level 0 2 0 1 0 1 1 Self-employed 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 Has never worked 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 Other 0 1 1 1 0 4 2 Skill level of previous occupation (for those who are not working) Unskilled manual 15 16 22 18 22 30 24 Skilled manual 4 14 15 14 14 20 16 Unskilled clerical 39 32 37 34 42 31 34 Skilled clerical 0 4 4 4 3 4 4 Intermediate 4 16 8 13 15 7 11 Higher level 3 6 7 6 2 4 4 Self-employed 31 11 4 11 1 4 6 Has never worked 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 Other 5 1 2 2 1 1 1 Occupational trajectory Has held a single job for at least 6 months 84 67 88 74 78 83 77 Monthly income No income 63 24 19 25 15 8 14 Less than €300 30 25 11 21 9 8 13 €300 – €899 5 32 44 34 53 61 48 €900+ 2 19 27 20 23 23 23 Begging 21 4 5 6 12 6 7 Number observed 86 1,112 494 1,692 655 1,457 3,804

Employment status and trajectory


Housing trajectory in France

Migrants Born in France Migrants who have never had housing Migrants Total Total Descendants Majority Arrived Arrived who have lost less than more than their housing migrants of migrants population 3 months ago 3 months ago Has rented or owned a home in France for at 0 0 100 27 64 68 51 least 3 months Has slept rough 67 57 51 56 67 61 61 Has slept in a hostel 63 94 93 92 89 91 91 Respondent cannot stay more than 2 weeks where he/she is 23 3 6 5 15 7 8 sleeping now Size of locality where person lives Pop. 20,000-200,000 7 7 8 7 8 17 11 Pop. more than 200,000 52 32 31 33 51 56 46 Paris region 40 61 61 60 41 27 43 Number observed 86 1,112 494 1,692 655 1,457 3,804

Housing trajectory in France


Status with regard to public institutions

Administrative status French citizen 0 6 19 9 89 100 61 Legally resident foreigner 52 55 62 57 8 0 25 Undocumented 48 39 19 34 3 0 14 Has applied for social housing(a) 6 23 31 24 37 33 31 Last meeting with a social worker Less than a month ago 36 56 61 56 67 56 58 Between 1 month and 1 year ago 6 25 23 23 21 28 24 More than a year ago 3 7 5 7 7 8 8 Never 55 12 10 14 6 9 10 Has called emergency social services in the 47 20 18 21 24 16 19 past month Has social security cover 12 80 85 78 92 92 86 Receives minimum welfare benefit (RSA) 2 16 27 18 36 48 32 Number observed 86 1,112 494 1,692 655 1,457 3,804

Status with regard to public institutions

(a) We consider that the person has applied for social housing if he/she has applied to the local council or municipal welfare centre (CCAS), a housing association, a social housing management structure, or the prefecture, or has made a housing application under the “DALO” right to housing law.

Income and social difficulties

Migrants Born in France Migrants who have never had housing Migrants Total Total Descendants Majority Arrived Arrived who have lost less than more than their housing migrants of migrants population 3 months ago 3 months ago Difficulty reading and/or writing Difficulty reading French 66 42 33 41 11 12 25 Difficulty writing French 68 48 41 47 17 15 29 Health Good health 62 63 55 61 51 50 54 Moderate health 29 18 22 19 34 26 25 Poor health 9 19 23 20 15 24 21 Social support Sometimes sleeps at home of relatives, friends or 9 20 28 22 31 42 31 acquaintances Lack of emotional or material support from 18 33 25 30 20 21 26 family/friends Difficulties in childhood Severe money problems in the family before 69 43 35 42 42 28 36 age 18 Lived in a war zone before age 18 57 30 17 28 7 3 14 Victim of violence in the past two years 39 22 28 25 36 28 28 Number observed 86 1,112 494 1,692 655 1,457 3,804

Income and social difficulties

Coverage: Metropolitan France, locality with a population of 20,000 or over, adults aged 18 and over. People who have slept in a shelter or used hot meal services and who do not have a personal dwelling.
Source: Enquête Sans-Domicile, INSEE-INED, 2012.

1 – Distinct migrant profiles with respect to the majority-population homeless

9Social workers tend to distinguish between homeless people born in France and homeless migrants because the two populations have quite different profiles. The population that migrated to France [10] (column 4 of Table 1) includes more women (41% versus 32% for the majority-population homeless, column 6), particularly the population from sub-Saharan Africa and non-EU and ex-Soviet European countries (around half the numbers in each of these groups are women). The migrant population is also younger and comprises more families with children.

10The trajectories that lead to housing insecurity also differ across the two groups. Most of the majority-population respondents have experienced residential loss: 68% of them have rented or owned a dwelling for at least three months at some point in their lives and have since lost their home (Table 1C). By contrast, only 27% of migrants, many of whom arrived in France as adults, have ever rented or owned a home in the country. For the French-born homeless, the loss of their home is above all a consequence of life events, [11] whereas for migrants, gaining initial access to the French rental housing market is the main hurdle. This difficulty is partly linked to their administrative status. An estimated one-third of homeless migrants are undocumented [12] (Table 1D), with no access to welfare or employment, and therefore to housing. Illiteracy [13] makes it harder for them to follow administrative procedures (Table 1E). Many migrants are in situations of extreme destitution, especially because they are isolated in French society. Few are able to stay with relatives, friends or acquaintances, and many report a lack of support, either emotional or material, from family or friends.

11Despite these difficulties, homeless migrants are less marginalized in society than the majority-population homeless. Firstly, they are better integrated into the labour market: 25% of them are working (Table 1B) – 30% if only legally resident migrants are counted – compared with just 19% of majority-population respondents. Moreover, more of the unemployed migrants want to return to work than in the unemployed majority-population group. Secondly, they are less “damaged” by life and in better health. This can be attributed to their younger age and probably to selection effects linked to migration, but also to markedly different lifestyles. The migrants of both genders surveyed have lower rates of substance abuse, include fewer smokers, and fewer individuals with mental health problems. Lastly, far fewer of them have been in prison since the age of 18 (Figures 1A and 1B). As we shall see in Section II, while migrants differ in terms of their trajectories and socio-demographic characteristics, their housing difficulties are chiefly due to administrative and financial problems, and less often a consequence of personal distress, addiction or crime.

Figure 1

Events since age 18 by geographical origin (%) and sex

Figure 1

Events since age 18 by geographical origin (%) and sex

Source: Enquête Sans-Domicile, INSEE/INED, 2012.

12Their situation in terms of housing entitlement is therefore ambiguous: on the one hand, the high percentage of women and children puts them at an advantage for obtaining accommodation provided by assistance organizations (Brousse et al., 2008; Marpsat, 2000; Yaouancq et al., 2013), as does their propensity to work (Soulié, 1997). On the other hand, they are disadvantaged because they are foreign (de Swaan, 1988). Given these competing effects, where do they stand in the system of housing allocation?

Migrants: a low priority in the housing system

13A regression was performed to identify the determinants of the probability of being homeless and sleeping rough (Table 2, Model 1). Overall, being born abroad does not appear to significantly influence the probability of being homeless rather than having somewhere to stay. [14] By contrast, being a woman, having children, and having a high educational level (indicating proficiency in French and an ability to deal with administrative paperwork) reduce the risk of being without shelter, whereas being undocumented (proxied here by not having a work permit) [15] increases the risk. However, if a model comprises men only (a women-only model was not constructed because very few women sleep rough), migrants have a significantly higher risk than the majority-population respondents of being homeless.

Table 2

Factors influencing the probability of being in different housing situations (logistic regression, odds ratio)

Table 2
Model 2. Probability of being in the least Model 1. Probability of being stable types of accommodation homeless and sleeping rough (hotel or night shelter) M + W M M + W M W Origin Majority population (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 1 Migrants 1.358 1.585 * 1.308 * 1.256 1.580 * Descendants of migrants 1.556 * 1.889 *** 1.237 1.332 * 0.968 Origin unknown 0.513 0.585 0.902 1.187 0.799 Gender Male (Ref.) 1 1 Female 0.107 *** 0.391 *** Age 41-50 (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 1 0-30 1.199 1.165 1.125 1.175 0.976 31-40 0.938 0.831 1.430 ** 1.303 1.446 50+ 0.771 0.692 0.526 *** 0.678 * 0.233 *** Educational level None or primary (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 1 Lower secondary 0.938 0.911 0.848 0.708 * 1.101 Upper secondary 0.598 * 0.603 * 0.870 0.806 1.053 Higher 0.340 *** 0.274 *** 1.058 1.005 1.266 Size of locality Greater Paris (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 1 Pop. 20,000- 200,000 0.141 *** 0.135 *** 0.393 *** 0.446 *** 0.334 *** Pop. 200,000+ 0.309 *** 0.287 *** 0.236 *** 0.333 *** 0.102 *** Living with children No (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 1 Yes 0.216 *** 0.290 *** 1.101 0.642 * 1.425 * Employment status Working (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 1 Unemployed 1.478 * 1.428 2.881 *** 2.771 *** 2.591 *** No work permit 1.996 ** 1.815 * 6.311 *** 4.609 *** 10.601 *** Other 2.437 *** 2.401 *** 2.051 *** 1.355 3.192 *** Concordant pairs 0.791 0.698 0.701 0.649 0.738 Number 4,419(a) 2,486 3,491 2,042 1,463 Events 193 180 905 691 214

Factors influencing the probability of being in different housing situations (logistic regression, odds ratio)

(a) 228 people live in a place not intended for human habitation.
Significance levels: * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001.
Coverage: Model 1: Metropolitan France, locality with a population of 20,000 or more, adults aged 18 and over. Persons who have used homeless accommodation or hot meal services and who do not have a personal dwelling. Model 2: same coverage as Model 1, but only persons in publicly provided accommodation.
Source: Enquête Sans-Domicile, INSEE-INED, 2012.

14Moreover, a more detailed look at the types of accommodation obtained (Table 3) reveals that the majority population has access to more stable accommodation (temporary housing or hostels with daytime access), where relatively long stays are permitted and advice services are offered, whereas migrants are over-represented in emergency accommodation (hotels and, for men, night shelters).

Table 3

Housing status by origin and gender (%)

Table 3
Migrants Born in France Total Migrants who have never had housing Migrants who have lost their housing Total migrants Descendants of migrants Arrived less than 3 Majority population months ago Arrived more than 3 months ago M W M+W M W M+W M W M+W M W M+W M W M+W M W M+W M W M+W Homeless in housing 1 8 2 21 31 26 14 37 24 17 32 24 24 32 27 25 48 32 22 40 29 Hostel with daytime access to room or dormitory 2 12 3 25 31 28 26 36 28 23 32 27 25 31 27 30 28 29 26 29 27 Shelter without daytime access to dormitory 48 21 45 17 2 10 20 0 12 21 2 13 27 6 19 16 3 12 20 3 14 Homeless in hotel 1 34 6 12 33 21 13 22 17 11 30 19 2 11 5 4 6 5 6 18 11 Homeless sleeping rough 32 12 30 13 0 8 18 0 11 16 1 10 14 0 9 8 3 6 12 1 8 Staying in someone else’s home 13 11 12 7 1 5 8 1 6 8 1 5 5 14 9 10 9 10 8 7 8 Other 2 2 2 3 1 2 1 3 2 3 1 2 3 6 4 7 4 6 5 3 4 Number observed 63 21 84 609 500 1,109 266 225 491 938 746 1,684 406 245 651 983 469 1,452 2,424 1,492 3,787

Housing status by origin and gender (%)

Coverage: Metropolitan France, locality with a population of 20,000 or more, adults aged 18 and over. Persons who have used homeless accommodation or hot meal services and who do not have a personal dwelling.
Source: Enquête Sans-Domicile, INSEE-INED, 2012.

15To measure the risk for the migrant population of being in the most insecure types of accommodation, a regression modelling the probability of being accommodated in a hotel [16] or a shelter without daytime access was performed, considering only respondents using services provided by assistance organizations (Table 2, Model 2). All other things being equal, migrants present a significantly higher risk than the majority population of being in the most insecure types of accommodation. When each gender is modelled separately, origin ceases to have a significant impact for men but not for women. Thus, while migrant men have a higher risk than the majority population of being excluded from services provided by assistance organizations, migrant women are at greater risk than majority-population women of being marginalized with the system. The impact of being foreign-born is thus gender-differentiated, but is always negative, as evidenced by migrants’ high level of housing instability. This is the group that most often uses the 115 toll-free helpline that responds to social emergencies (Table 1D) and that most often does not know how long they can stay in the place where they are currently sleeping.

16The disadvantaged position of migrants in the housing system affects their prospects of obtaining a personal home. While the proportion of people who have applied for social housing is low in the total population with no personal dwelling, it is especially low among migrants, only one-quarter of whom are on waiting lists (Table 1D). Again, this can be attributed to their administrative and financial difficulties, which are the main reasons reported by respondents for not having applied for social housing. However, origin also has a specific impact. A regression modelling the probability of having applied for social housing was performed to measure that impact (Table 4). Controlling for their position on the labour market and their administrative status, it shows that migrants are less likely to have applied for social housing than majority-population respondents. These particularly low rates among migrants can be attributed to difficulties reading and writing French, which make it hard for them to follow administrative procedures (Dubois, 1999; Hoggart, 1970), as well as to less familiarity with the system and a weaker sense of legitimacy in exercising their right to housing (Dietrich-Ragon, 2015). [17]

17In general, the profiles of migrants with no personal dwelling differ from those of the majority-population respondents. While the presence of women and children ensures priority access to housing, their origin works against them, to the extent that they often find themselves in the most precarious types of accommodation. We shall now analyse the case of the population born in France to one or two migrant parents, whose foreign background exposes them to ongoing disadvantage.

2 – Descendants of migrants: family problems that lead to homelessness

18The respondents who are descendants of migrants (column 5, Table 1) are younger than the majority-population respondents and include a higher percentage of women. They also come from a more disadvantaged socioeconomic background (Table 1A). Their fathers, most of whom migrated to France from the Maghreb, [18] belonged to the waves of unskilled migrants often hired to perform arduous manual work. Their mothers played a traditional stay-at-home role or worked in unskilled jobs. These respondents grew up in large families – more than five children in over half of all cases – which suggests that they belonged to the least socially integrated fringes of the immigrant population. Economic insecurity was also very common. In their youth, the respondents with migrant parents were more exposed to parental unemployment and to financial problems than the majority-population respondents, whatever their age or gender (Table 5). They also typically have a history of family problems (illness, conflict) when they were growing up. [19] Under these conditions, it is not surprising that many left home early: 47% before their 19th birthday. [20] In this respect, they differ radically from descendants of migrants with a personal dwelling, who tend to stay with their parents until they can find stable employment (Moguérou and Santelli, 2010). Inter-generational relationships are thus more important for descendants of migrants, who generally rely more strongly on family solidarity because they do not always feel accepted in their social environment (Attias-Donfut and Wolff, 2009) Consequently, those with no family support are often severely penalized and, in extreme cases, become marginalized from society.

Table 4

Factors influencing the probability of having applied for social housing (logistic regression, odds ratios)

Table 4
Model 1 Model 2 Origin Majority population (Ref.) 1 1 Migrants 1.100 1.083 Descendants of migrants 0.587 *** 0.604 *** Origin unknown 1.689 * 1.907 * Gender Male (Ref.) 1 1 Female 1.522 *** 1.851 *** Age 41-50 (Ref.) 1 1 0-30 0.636 *** 0.622 *** 31-40 1.255 * 1.285 * 50+ 1.321 * 1.318 * Educational level None or primary (Ref.) 1 1 Lower secondary 1.280 1.462 ** Upper secondary 1.303 1.437 * Higher 1.158 1.283 Size of locality Paris region (Ref.) 1 1 Pop. 20,000 - 200,000 0.458 *** 0.531 *** Pop. 200,000+ 0.816 * 0.965 Family status Single (Ref.) 1 1 Couple with children 1.673 *** 2.282 *** Childless couple 3.154 *** 3.517 *** Single with children 1.367 * 1.720 *** Employment status Working (Ref.) 1 1 Unemployed 0.573 *** 0.537 *** Retired 0.402 *** 0.388 *** Disabled 0.206 *** 0.185 *** No work permit 0.483 ** 0.434 *** Other 0.476 *** 0.394 *** Contact with family At least once a year but less than once a month (Ref.) 1 1 None for at least a year 0.581 *** 0.527 *** More than once a month 1.177 1.149 Contact with a social worker Never (Ref.) 1 More than a year ago 2.014 ** Less than a month ago 2.561 *** More than a month but less than a year ago 2.310 *** Housing status Housed by an assistance organization (Ref.) 1 Hostel with daytime access 0.780 * Shelter with no daytime access 0.414 *** Staying with someone 0.785 Sleeping rough 0.252 *** Homeless in a hotel 0.846 Other 0.186 *** Concordant pairs 0.684 0.673 Number 4,007 4,007 Events 964 964

Factors influencing the probability of having applied for social housing (logistic regression, odds ratios)

Significance levels: * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001.
Coverage: Metropolitan France, locality with a population of 20,000 or more, adults aged 18 and over. Persons who have used homeless accommodation or hot meal services and who do not have a personal dwelling.
Source: Enquête Sans-Domicile, INSEE-INED, 2012.
Table 5

Impact of geographical origin on the probability of having experienced difficulties before age 18, controlling for age and gender (logistic regressions, odds ratios)

Table 5
Variables Illness, Extended Serious arguments Severe financial disability or unemployment or and conflict problems in the serious injury bankruptcy between parents of a parent of a parent family Majority population (Ref.) 1 1 1 1 Descendants of migrants 1.494 *** 1.621 *** 1.459 ** 1.764 *** Migrants 0.372 *** 0.663 *** 1.185 1.766 *** Number 4,007 4,007 4,007 4,007 Events 1,325 1,131 750 1,394

Impact of geographical origin on the probability of having experienced difficulties before age 18, controlling for age and gender (logistic regressions, odds ratios)

Significance levels: * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001.
Coverage: Metropolitan France, locality with a population of 20,000 or more, adults aged 18 and over. Persons who have used homeless accommodation or hot meal services and who have no personal dwelling.
Source: Enquête Sans-Domicile, INSEE-INED, 2012.

19A lack of parental support is all the more problematic given that descendants of migrants tend to have problems of socioeconomic integration in adulthood. Because of their lack of job skills – and for young people, because of their age – it is difficult for them to find work, and their unemployment rates are high. Men are the most affected and often end up in deviant trajectories: more than one-third have been in prison since the age of 18 (Figure 1A), resulting in even greater stigmatization on the labour market. They also suffer from extreme financial insecurity: 16% are forced to beg (7% of men from the majority population), a survival strategy that reflects a situation of extreme destitution (Pichon, 2007). Homeless male descendants of migrants find themselves in a critical situation, echoing the specific difficulties of the sons of African immigrants (Madzou and Bacqué, 2008).

20These multiple disadvantages are reflected in the quality of services available to these population groups. Descendants of migrants are more poorly housed than the majority-population respondents: men more frequently sleep rough or in shelters that they have to leave in the morning, and fewer women have access to housing provided by assistance organizations (Table 3). Table 2 confirms that this is the case, all other things being equal. Male descendants of migrants have a higher risk than men in the majority population of sleeping rough and, when they do obtain accommodation provided by assistance organizations, it is of the most insecure type (whereas the impact of origin is not significant for women). When male descendants of migrants face exclusion, society seems unwilling to help. By contrast, the population of descendants of migrants is the group with the highest percentage of applicants for social housing (Table 1D). These individuals are familiar with the social housing sector, in which they often grew up; social networks and socialization are known to be decisive factors in the decision to apply for social housing (Dietrich-Ragon, 2013b).

21The trajectories leading to homelessness among migrants and their descendants should therefore be considered separately from those of the majority population. For migrants, difficulties exercising their rights are the key issue, whereas for descendants of migrants, a lack of family support, combined with a series of social disqualifications (in education and employment) can lead to extreme marginalization, especially among men. Moreover, origin influences the quality of accommodation and therefore the prospects of accessing (or returning to) housing for those populations. We shall now see that even within the migrant population there are differences in trajectories and in access to services.

II – Migrants’ trajectories and access to services

22We shall now focus on the survey population of homeless migrants to identify key sub-populations within this group. An initial distinction needs to be made between migrants who have never had housing in France [21] (almost three-quarters of migrants), for whom the lack of housing is a direct consequence of their migration (columns 1 and 2 of Table 1), and migrants who had housing in the past but have since become homeless (27% of the migrants) (column 3 of Table 1). Of the migrants who have never had housing, a minority arrived in France very recently (less than three months before the survey) and that segment can be considered as a minority. The remaining majority face an “uphill battle” that in some cases has lasted for years, and are dependent on the system of temporary accommodation, which becomes harder and harder to exit. As we shall see, these sub-populations have unequal economic, cultural and social capital, resulting in major differences in access to services, in living conditions, and in chances of obtaining permanent housing.

1 – Newly arrived migrants: isolation upon arrival in France

23A small proportion of migrants left their countries of origin very recently: just 5% had arrived in France less than three months before the survey (column 1 of Table 1). This population, originating mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, consists overwhelmingly of single men [22] in a highly precarious situation with particularly disadvantaged backgrounds in their countries of origin. The proportion with fathers in higher-level or intermediate occupations is much smaller than among respondents from the other groups (Table 1A), and most of their mothers never worked. [23] Most of them have no educational qualifications, while some have lower secondary education at best; they are an exception to the current trend towards rising educational levels among migrants (Moguérou et al., 2016). Some 69% also reported that their families experienced severe financial problems when they were growing up (Table 1E). Another specific feature of this group is that many (57%) have lived in war zones and have been subjected to violence (39% were victims of violence in the previous two years) (Table 1E). [24] While the abuse may have occurred on the path of exile, their reports provide confirmation that, in addition to economic motives, people migrate to flee psychologically untenable situations (Jamoule, 2013). To sum up, these migrants combine the disadvantage of recent arrival with pre-existing economic and social disadvantage in their countries of origin.

24In France, they face acute integration difficulties. Half of them are undocumented (Table 1D), which reflects the time it takes to legalize one’s status, but also the fact that the most socially disadvantaged migrants are the least likely to obtain visas and therefore tend to enter France illegally (Bréant, 2015). At the time of the survey, almost none of them were working and a majority had no income (21% were forced to beg) (Table 1B). Moreover, communication difficulties (66% have difficulty reading French and 68% difficulty writing, Table 1E) hamper integration and make it hard for them to follow official procedures for obtaining assistance. Lastly, although we know that most migrants receive support from their communities and from relatives on arrival in the host country (Pétonnet, 1979; Sayad and Dupuy, 1995), often in the form of a place to stay (Lévy-Vroelant, 2004; Timéra, 2000), this group is particularly isolated. Only 12% of them are staying in someone’s home (Table 3) and few have an opportunity to stay occasionally with relatives. Unlike the better-off migrants who can plan their departure and who have a stronger support system (Bréant, 2015), the migrants who attend services for the homeless upon arrival in France experience this period as an abandonment.

25Their isolation is especially problematic as they are frequently excluded from services provided by assistance organizations, and only receive the most short-term help: 30% of them slept rough the night before the survey, and those who had a roof were in shelters that offer the most short-term conditions of stay (Table 3). Almost one-quarter do not think they can stay more than two weeks in the place where they slept the previous night (Table 1C) and almost half had called the 115 helpline in the past month (Table 1D). This situation can be attributed to their recent arrival in France, which puts them at the bottom of waiting lists, but also to the fact that, as single men, they receive little attention from assistance organizations, which give priority to families. This is reflected in their limited contact with social workers, even though access to advice would increase their chances of finding more secure housing by enabling them to exercise their legal rights. Their integration prospects are therefore very poor, at least in the near future. While recently arrived migrants encounter acute difficulties, we shall see that others who have been in France for longer still struggle to find housing.

2 – Chronic housing insecurity

26We shall now look at the migrant respondents who arrived in France more than three months before the survey but who have never been housed for more than three consecutive months (column 2 of Table 1). They account for 66% of the migrants. Of that group, 56% have been homeless for between three months and five years, and 44% for more than five years. More than 60% of these people live in the Paris region (Table 1C), where rents are the highest and the shortage of social housing most acute, [25] and this is a major reason for their difficulty exiting the system of emergency accommodation.

27Their profile differs from that of migrants who have just arrived in France. Their geographical origins are more diverse (26% come from the Maghreb, 48% from sub-Saharan Africa, and 13% from non-EU and ex-Soviet European countries, Table 1A). Almost half are women, 66% of whom are living with children. They had a higher social status in their countries of origin; a smaller percentage had money problems in the family when they were growing up (“only” 43%, Table 1E), they have more schooling, and more of them completed upper secondary or higher education before coming to France (Table 1A). They are thus in a less disadvantaged position, especially as far fewer of them have lived in a war zone or experienced conflict-related trauma (Table 1E). In France, they are therefore less marginalized than recent migrants, due partly to a selection effect (the most precarious migrants probably do not remain long in France) and to their length of stay in France which correlates with an improvement in their situation. From an administrative perspective (Table 1D), 55% are legally resident in France, and 6% have French citizenship, which enables them to access various forms of welfare support: 80% have social security medical cover (compared with only 12% of the migrants who arrived less than three months before the survey) and 16% receive the RSA minimum welfare benefit (compared with only 2% of the other group).

28They are thus building up “bureaucratic capital”, [26] an element taken into account by assistance organizations for granting access to better housing (Soulié, 1997). With more educational capital, they have fewer difficulties reading and writing (Table 1E). Moreover, 28% are working, even if they hold unskilled, precarious jobs [27] and are still financially insecure (Table 1B). This basic labour market integration is valued by assistance organizations: being able to produce payslips facilitates access to stable accommodation and, later, a personal dwelling.

29Lastly, because of their family status – they are frequently accompanied by children – they receive priority treatment by assistance organizations. As a result, these migrants obtain temporary housing or a place in a shelter with daytime access (Table 3) more frequently than the other group.

30Their trajectories show that their situation has improved in relative terms since their arrival in France. Whereas 57% report having already slept rough and 94% having slept in a temporary shelter (Table 1C), a large percentage of them have since obtained better-quality, more stable accommodation, and with growing frequency as their length of stay in France increases. These small “advancements” through the emergency accommodation system represent not only an improvement in living conditions but also a step towards accessing a personal dwelling (Lanzaro, 2014). In other words, although these people’s housing insecurity tends to become chronic, they are not left off “the ladder” that leads to housing, but instead remain stuck on a slightly higher “rung” in the temporary accommodation system. Furthermore, these migrants receive much more support from social workers, and more of them have applied for social housing than migrants in the previous group (Table 1D), this being linked to their more stable accommodation and, again, to the amount of time they have spent in France. Another factor of integration is their relatively large social networks: 20% report staying occasionally with relatives or friends (Table 1E). In addition to the emotional and material support they provide, these relationships play a role in progression into housing (Dietrich-Ragon, 2015). Some of these migrants have already begun the process that leads to a personal dwelling.

31For migrants on the sidelines of the French housing market, the time they have spent in France is thus a decisive factor of integration. Whereas some of the most precarious migrants are certainly lost to observation because they leave France or stop using services for the homeless, those who remain gradually normalize their administrative status, access services provided by assistance organizations, and find resources to improve their material conditions. Socio-demographic characteristics play a key role in that process: under a policy that prioritizes women and families with children, it is they who obtain the best accommodation. Moreover, confirming the fact that migrants’ prior status in the country of origin influences their integration in the host country (Attias-Donfut et al., 2011; Sayad, 1999), it is the migrants with the greatest cultural and economic capital who are most able to benefit from the system in France. However, some migrants who initially managed to secure a place on the French housing market have experienced subsequent setbacks that jeopardize their socio-residential integration.

3 – Migrants’ housing loss

32In France, 27% of the migrants surveyed had had housing in the past (column 4 of Table 1), 43% of them women. Although there is no information about that housing, it is likely that the conditions were poor, since we know that immigrants, especially the most precarious, are over-represented in unsafe, overcrowded and poorly located housing (Barou, 2006; Cusset et al., 2015; Dietrich-Ragon, 2011; Observatoire des inégalités, 2015). Moreover, many of them had housing only for a short time: one-quarter spent less than a year in the last housing they rented or owned, and another quarter spent between one and three years. Some people had lost their homes recently (less than a year earlier in one-quarter of cases), and others a much longer time ago (six or more years earlier for another quarter).

33As we might expect, housing loss is most frequent among the oldest migrants who arrived in France many years ago, often from the Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa (Table 1A). Having lived in France for a long time, almost 20% have acquired French citizenship (Table 1D). Compared with younger migrants who have never had housing, this group grew up in a relatively advantaged environment. A higher percentage of them had fathers who were in a higher-level or intermediate occupations (Table 1A) and their families less frequently had money problems when they were growing up. They are also among the best educated and less frequently have difficulty reading or writing French (Table 1E). In other words, migrants who have experienced downward residential mobility frequently have resources that facilitated their socio-economic integration in France at some point.

34But that integration was only temporary. Many have experienced job loss. Although 88% report having been in stable employment, a majority have since become unemployed, since only 25% were working at the time of the survey (Table 1B). For some, the descent was brutal. In terms of the skill level of the last job held, a question asked of the non-working respondents, some 8% had previously held intermediate occupations and 7% higher-level occupations. The percentage of skilled workers among the unemployed is therefore considerable. Moreover, while people with education are over-represented among the working respondents, the vast majority of those in work hold precarious jobs at the bottom of the social hierarchy (almost one-quarter are in unskilled manual jobs and 62% in unskilled clerical jobs). Downward residential mobility is thus linked to downward movement on the labour market, either job loss or downskilling. This negative career trajectory is linked to migration, which often obliges migrants to take jobs for which they are overqualified (Boudimbou, 1991), but probably also to health problems (23% are in poor health, Table 1E) and disabilities (6% are disabled), especially for migrants with no qualifications. Catherine Delcroix has shown the tragedy of physical disability for immigrants without education who are unable to switch to non-manual work (Delcroix, 2001).

35Additionally, marital breakdown is a recurrent event in these downward trajectories. While more than half of the migrants who lost their housing are or were married, one-quarter are divorced and most now live alone without children (Table 1A). Job loss and family breakdown are the reasons most commonly reported by respondents, whether migrants or born in France, to explain their loss of housing. Note that migrant women who have lost their housing more frequently report domestic violence, which confirms that marital conflict and breakdown after family reunion are contributing factors in loss of housing (Lanzaro, 2014).

36Regardless of its cause, this downward trajectory generates a sense of failure. This is manifested in self-destructive behaviours, which are less common among those who have never had housing. Migrants who have experienced residential loss consume more alcohol than those who have not (Figure 1A). More of the men in this group have psychiatric problems. The women exhibit high rates of suicidal behaviour, comparable to those of women who arrived in France less than three months before the survey, many of whom have suffered trauma (Figure 1B). Migrants who have lost their housing are also more likely to be in deviant trajectories: almost 20% of migrant men in this situation have been in prison since they turned 18, a much higher proportion than among those who have never had housing. In that regard, their profile is more similar to that of the homeless majority population.

37Their access to public services attests to this ambivalent situation. On the one hand, they benefit from more stable accommodation than other migrants, especially the women among them (Table 3), and do not remain at the bottom of the ladder that potentially leads to housing. With more experience of how welfare is organized in France, they are better able to navigate the system and exercise their rights. [28] They tend more frequently to turn to assistance organizations for accommodation (Table 1D). On the other hand, they receive lower-quality accommodation than people from the majority population who have lost their home. Some 17% are living in a hotel (compared with 5% of the majority population who have lost their home, Table 3) and 11% are sleeping rough (compared with 6% of their majority-population counterparts). [29] Migrants who become homeless are thus more likely to enter the emergency accommodation system than the rehousing system.

38The trajectories of migrants who have lost their housing are similar to those of the majority population respondents in the same situation. Like them, they have often experienced job loss or downskilling and marital breakdown which have destabilized their position in the housing market; economic difficulties are just one aspect of the problems they face. Yet their origin continues to play against them, and they are less frequently included in rehousing schemes than individuals from the majority population who have experienced a similar loss.


39While the origin of homeless people is rarely mentioned in the media, this article shows that housing insecurity disproportionately affects migrants and their descendants. Moreover, access to accommodation provided by assistance organizations is more difficult for migrants than for homeless people from the majority population. Migrant men are more likely to be left out in the street, while migrant women tend to be sent to emergency accommodation, which is less likely to lead to stable housing.

40The migrant population should not be seen as a homogeneous group, however. A more detailed study by country of origin is needed, but we can already see that the trajectories leading to homelessness are varied. For some migrants, it is linked to the initial period after their arrival in France. In such cases, housing insecurity may follow on from major difficulties that already existed prior to migration, and is frequently associated with an undocumented status. Others, particularly in cities where there is not enough affordable housing, have been homeless for years, and find themselves stuck in the “vestibular housing system”, i.e. where people stagnate until they find a place on the housing market (Ball, 2007). While they are often living in unsatisfactory conditions, such as hotels, for many this represents a first rung on the ladder, which enables them to progress gradually towards stable housing.

41Another case is that of migrants who enjoyed relatively stable housing at some point in their lives, then experienced a disruption in their trajectory, often unemployment or family breakdown, that made them homeless. The resulting distress is acute and may be manifested in self-destructive behaviours, especially as they have less chance of obtaining housing from assistance organizations than majority-population respondents in the same situation.

42The heterogeneous trajectories of the three sub-populations of migrants, and their varying legitimacy in the eyes of assistance organizations, create unequal chances of exiting homelessness. As Soulié found for rough sleepers, emergency accommodation providers rank them according to their “capital”, and it is the best endowed or “most competent” who enjoy priority access to the best facilities, advice and support services (Soulié, 1997). Women with children take priority, as do migrants who are best integrated into the labour market and those with the most education. Conversely, the most precarious migrants are offered solutions that are themselves precarious, thus reducing their chances of integrating into French society. They will probably continue their trajectories on the margins of society and some will be lost to observation because they leave France or become extremely marginalized.

43The case of homeless descendants of migrants is specific. Acute family problems may deprive them of the family protection that is so crucial to this group. They find themselves excluded from the society in which they grew up, even if they are more familiar with official procedures than migrants, and more frequently turn to assistance organizations for help. A fundamental difference between migrants and their descendants is the way they exercise their rights. Although people tend to turn to assistance organizations with a frequency that increases with the time spent in France, the inequality of access by origin is worrying because, unlike the older generations of migrants whose geographical mobility led to upward social mobility (at least for their children), the new generations of migrants more frequently find their decision to relocate associated with downward mobility (Longchamp, 2015). Under these circumstances, exclusion from housing in France is increasingly likely to intersect with ethnic origin.


Appendix A.1. The geographical origin of users of homeless services

44In France, where the Republic aspires to be blind to any distinction based on origin (Tribalat, 2016), most statistical surveys include only information about the country of birth and citizenship of birth of the respondents’ parents. Country of birth is available for the respondents to the Sans-Domicile homeless survey, however. Within the group born in France, it was therefore possible to distinguish between the “majority” population respondents, who were born in France and whose parents were both born in France or in one of the French overseas territories, [30] and descendants of migrants, who have at least one foreign-born parent. Foreign-born respondents are considered here as migrants. [31] While we know approximately how long these migrants have been in France (6% arrived less than three months before the survey, 41% between three months and five years before, and 53% five or more years before), the exact date of arrival is not available. Moreover, this variable relates only to the current stay in France, even though some migrants may have been in France before. It is not possible to determine whether the person migrated as a child or as an adult, which is problematic given the significance of arriving in France at an early age (Barou, 2011).

45Some variables nevertheless provide an indication, such as, for those with an educational qualification, the place where it was obtained. Some 27% of educated migrants have a qualification from France. Most of these qualifications are upper secondary level or less, which suggests that these respondents arrived as children and attended school in France. These respondents have a similar profile to that of descendants of migrants. Therefore, all the individuals aged over 25 who had arrived in France five or more years earlier and who obtained a qualification below upper secondary level in France were included in the descendants of migrants category. On the other hand, it is not possible to identify migrants who arrived in France as children with their parents if they did not obtain any qualifications in France. Similarly, we cannot tell whether migrants who have a French higher education qualification (4%) grew up in France or abroad.

46There is also the specific case of the respondents whose parents’ place of birth is unknown (4% of the total). Almost three-quarters of them were placed in foster or institutional care as children: 11% reported that their father is deceased, and 68% that they never knew their father. For mothers, the figures are 10% and 65%, respectively. Lastly, more than 4% of the respondents refused to give information about their parents.

Appendix A.2. The 2012 Sans-Domicile survey

47The French Sans-Domicile survey of the homeless was conducted in January and February 2012 by INSEE and INED. [32] It is a new round of a survey first conducted in 2001, with some adaptations to reflect changes to the homeless support system. In 2012, the sample was drawn in three stages. First, 80 localities with a population of over 20,000 were drawn, including all French towns and cities with a population of over 200,000. Towns with a population of between 20,000 and 200,000 were selected proportionally to their population and their accommodation capacity. Next, a sample of accommodation facilities (reintegration, stabilization or emergency accommodation, either grouped or dispersed) and meal services were drawn from a survey base created beforehand through a telephone survey. These may include facilities opened during cold snaps to accommodate the homeless (sports halls, municipal halls) and night shelters. The final data collection took place on a sample of users of these services. Of the 8,700 French-speakers surveyed, 4,500 answered a face-to-face interview and 4,200 filled out a shorter self-administered questionnaire on the premises of 1,300 homeless services. A self-administered questionnaire in 14 languages was also filled out by 1,500 non-French-speakers. As in 2001, the weightings mainly reflect individual differences in use of the services.

48The survey therefore covers French-speaking and non-French-speaking adults aged 18 and over, living in towns and cities with a population of over 20,000 and having used one of the services offered during the survey period (hostel, night shelter, provision of hot meals or breakfasts) at least once. We focused on French-speakers who answered the long questionnaire, since the questionnaires filled out by non-French-speakers were not yet available. We know that roughly 20% of homeless users of services are non-French-speaking foreigners, that two-thirds of them were born in an eastern European or a former Soviet country, and that women are over-represented among them (Yaouancq and Duée, 2014). The absence of non-French-speakers from this study therefore leads to an overestimation of the percentage of migrants from French-speaking countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, and an underestimation of the percentage of women.

49Lastly, some categories of homeless people were not included in the survey: those living in towns with none of the services covered by the survey; those living in towns with a population of less than 20,000, and those who could not read any of the languages in which the questionnaire for non-French-speakers was offered.


  • [*]
    French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED)
    Correspondence: Pascale Dietrich-Ragon, Institut national d’études démographiques, 133 Boulevard Davout, 75980 Paris Cedex 20, France, email:
  • [1]
    In this article “homelessness” and “homeless” refers to persons sleeping rough or in shelters, but also to those who are paying to live in a hotel, staying with friends or family, or living in a squat.
  • [2]
    Several studies have shown that populations with a migrant background are disadvantaged on the housing market (Barou, 2006; Beaufils, 2009; Boëldieu and Thave, 2000; Breem, 2009).
  • [3]
    This can be attributed to a context where the issue of migrant housing is “diluted” in the broader problem of disadvantaged populations (Ballain, 1997).
  • [4]
    These include boarding houses, tourist hotels, and hostels (Observatoire du Samu social, 2014).
  • [5]
    13% of the survey respondents rented or owned the home they were living in.
  • [6]
    For more than half of this homeless group, both parents were migrants. The proportion is similar for the total population of second-generation migrants in France (Borrel and Lhommeau, 2010).
  • [7]
    In 4% of cases the parents’ place of birth is unknown.
  • [8]
    In France, despite the 2009-2012 national strategy on the homeless and housing-deprived, which recommends a “housing first” approach, the “ladder” model continues to prevail. Under this model, homeless people “progress” into housing through different types of short-term accommodation.
  • [9]
    Social housing is often the only way out of homelessness. The other escape routes are death (Terrolle, 2002), the army, prison, returning to the home country or leaving for another country (for migrants), or admission to other institutions, such as nursing homes (Brousse et al., 2008).
  • [10]
    The breakdown by origin is as follows: 29% of migrants were born in the Maghreb, 47% in another African country, 3% in one of the first 15 EU countries, 10% in another European or former Soviet country and 6% in another part of the world.
  • [11]
    These are mainly related to difficulties in childhood (Firdion, 2006), precarious employment (Brousse, 2006a) and a breakdown in social ties (Dietrich-Ragon, 2015; Firdion and Marpsat, 2014).
  • [12]
    This study defines “undocumented migrants” as those who benefit from state medical cover for undocumented migrants, and those who do not have French citizenship or a work permit. However, we can assume that some of this number are asylum seekers.
  • [13]
    Some 41% of the migrants said they had difficulty reading French and 47% difficulty writing.
  • [14]
    Some homeless people refuse to stay in emergency shelters because of the poor conditions there (Damon, 2009). Therefore a percentage of those who do not access services have rejected the accommodation themselves.
  • [15]
    Not having the right to work may be due to other circumstances, such as long-term sick leave.
  • [16]
    Hotels are a precarious type of accommodation where no advice or counselling services are provided (Samu social, 2014). More than three-quarters of the people accommodated in hotels were born abroad. This is because hotels are used to house families with children, who cannot be accommodated alongside the population typically admitted to emergency shelters (Le Méner, 2013).
  • [17]
    The rate of non-application would probably be even higher if non-French-speakers were taken into account.
  • [18]
    Some 48% of the fathers and 37% of the mothers were born in the Maghreb.
  • [19]
    Controlling for gender and age, fewer descendants of migrants reported that their parents were involved in crime or had addictions. Thus, we observe a reproduction of problems from one generation to the next among the majority-population respondents, but not among descendants of migrants.
  • [20]
    The figure falls to 38% if we exclude those who were in foster or institutional care in childhood.
  • [21]
    These are individuals who have never rented or owned housing for a period of three months or more.
  • [22]
    Many have left families behind in their countries of origin. This corresponds to a traditional pattern of migration, where men leave alone and later arrange for their wives and children to join them.
  • [23]
    These figures should be taken with caution because the types of occupations are not readily comparable with those in France, but they provide an indication of original social class. Similarly, it is likely that some mothers worked, but not in jobs recognised as paid employment.
  • [24]
    In women, this is reflected in severe psychiatric problems (Figure 1B).
  • [25]
    In the Paris region (Île-de-France), 406,000 households were on waiting lists for social housing in 2010 and the estimated wait was 5.4 years (IAU, 2011).
  • [26]
    According to Charles Soulié, receiving the minimum welfare benefit or disability benefit and/or being registered with the state employment office are factors that contribute to “bureaucratic capital”, which homeless people can leverage with institutions (Soulié, 1997).
  • [27]
    Some 46% of the men are working in unskilled manual jobs, and 32% in unskilled clerical jobs; 78% of the women are in unskilled clerical jobs. Roughly one-third work less than 20 hours a week, 11% work on agency contracts and 34% have no employment contract. A large percentage of this population thus works in the “sub-employment” market or in what Alain Touraine calls “peripheral production” (Touraine, 1991).
  • [28]
    More of them receive basic welfare benefits, which means they have more income than other migrants.
  • [29]
    22% of migrant women who had lost their homes were living in a hotel, compared with 6% in the majority population. Among migrant men in the same situation, 13% were living in a hotel and 18% were homeless and sleeping rough, compared with 4% and 8%, respectively, in the majority population (Table 3).
  • [30]
    In total, 2% of mothers and 2% of fathers were born in an overseas territory, and 2% of the respondents were themselves born in an overseas territory. If one parent is of unknown origin but the other parent was born in France, the individual was included in the majority population category.
  • [31]
    According to INSEE, an immigrant is a person who was born abroad and lives in France. Since the Sans-Domicile survey does not include information about citizenship of birth, a migrant is defined in this study as a person born abroad. Consequently the proportion of migrants is slightly overestimated since some French citizens were born abroad. According to INSEE, in 2014, of the 7.6 million foreign-born individuals living in France (excluding Mayotte), 1.7 million were born as French citizens.
  • [32]
    INSEE: National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies; INED: French Institute for Demographic Studies.

Although the percentage of foreigners among the homeless has risen sharply in the space of ten years, the specific characteristics of this population remain under-researched. This article analyses the social and housing trajectories of migrants and their descendants with no personal dwelling. How do they differ from their counterparts born in France? What specific position do immigrants hold in the temporary accommodation sector and what are the key differences within this group? The results of the French Homeless Survey (Enquête Sans-Domicile) conducted by INSEE and INED in 2012 show that migrants, descendants of migrants, and people from the “majority” population have distinct profiles, and that they do not have equal access to accommodation provided by assistance organizations. Owing to the presence of women and children among them, migrants are generally not left in the street, but they are often sent to emergency shelters where they are less likely to move on to permanent housing. Moreover, the unequal economic, cultural and social capital of the members of this group gives rise to differentials in access to accommodation and in their ability to exercise their rights.


  • homelessness
  • France
  • migration
  • descendants of migrants
  • shelters
  • insecure housing

Aux portes de la société française. Les personnes privées de logement issues de l’immigration

Alors qu’en dix ans la part des étrangers a fortement augmenté parmi les sans-domicile, les spécificités de cette population restent peu étudiées. Cet article propose d’analyser les trajectoires sociorésidentielles des personnes issues de l’immigration confrontées à la privation de logement personnel. En quoi diffèrent-elles de celles des sans-domicile nés en France ? Quelle place spécifique les immigrés occupent-ils dans le monde de l’hébergement et quelles sont les lignes de fracture au sein de cette population ? Les résultats de l’enquête Sans-Domicile menée par l’Insee et l’Ined en 2012 montrent que les migrants, les descendants d’immigrés et les personnes de la population dite « majoritaire » ont des profils distincts, et qu’en matière d’hébergement institutionnel, ils ne sont pas logés à la même enseigne. En raison de la présence de femmes et d’enfants, les migrants ne sont généralement pas laissés à la rue, mais ils sont souvent relégués dans les dispositifs d’urgence, moins favorables à l’insertion. Par ailleurs, ils disposent de ressources économiques, culturelles et relationnelles hétérogènes qui les conduisent à des prises en charge et à un recours au droit différenciés.


Al margen de la sociedad francesa. Las personas privadas de alojamiento de origen inmigrante

Aunque en los últimos diez años la presencia de extranjeros entre las personas sin domicilio ha aumentado fuertemente, las características de esta población han sido poco estudiadas. Este artículo se propone analizar las trayectorias socio-residenciales de las persones de origen inmigrante confrontadas a la privación de domicilio propio ¿En qué difieren de las personas sin domicilio nacidas en Francia? ¿Qué posición específica ocupan los inmigrantes en el mundo del alojamiento y cuáles son las líneas de fractura en el seno de esta población? Los resultados de la encuesta Sin-Domicilio realizada por el Insee y el Ined en 2012 muestran que los inmigrantes, los descendientes de inmigrantes y la población llamada “mayoritaria” tienen perfiles distintos, y que en materia de alojamiento institucional no son tratados de la misma manera. A los inmigrantes, en razón de la presencia de mujeres y de niños, no se les deja en la calle, pero frecuentemente son relegados en los servicios de emergencia, menos favorables a la inserción. Por otra parte, disponen de recursos económicos, culturales y relacionales heterogéneos que conducen a una atención y a un recurso al derecho diferenciados.


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Pascale Dietrich-Ragon [*]
  • [*]
    French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED)
    Correspondence: Pascale Dietrich-Ragon, Institut national d’études démographiques, 133 Boulevard Davout, 75980 Paris Cedex 20, France, email:
Translated by
Madeleine Grieve
Uploaded on on 30/05/2017
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