From the heights of Montmartre Hill, Paris rooftops offer themselves to the passers-by. Nothing indicates what is happening close to the ground, another city, dense and crowded, conflicted, even unlivable, some would say.
« It’s too noisy, my front window looks onto the street and I hear everything », says an inhabitant of the Goutte d’Or neighbourhood, the African quarter of Paris found at the foot of the hill.
Here, counterfeiting sprawls over sidewalks. Urbanization takes place from the bottom up, on the street, from trade in goods to trade in (women’s) bodies.
Some people wish to open up the area, diversify its population and turn it into a popular, multi-ethnic district, without intruding into the public space, all the while saying goodbye to police patrols.
Yet, those cash-in-hand jobs protect the most vulnerable groups in a system unable to provide jobs for people without a right of residence.
Therefore, the neighbourhood becomes a point of entry to the capital, where one can find support and work. « I came here because I knew people I could stay with », tells a young woman.
Many homeless people rent a room for the night in hotels nearby : « I see retired people who have almost no pension. They pay 35 euros a night. Well, in the end, they end up being taken care of by charities », says a hotel receptionist.
Drifters inside the city, they wander from one hotel to the next, the Sacré-Cœur on the horizon, like a mirage, an unlikely destination.
« Towards the city runs everything that space contains. Everything produced by the world, the goods, money and humans. The city welcomes them and packs them in. » (Henri Lefebvre, The Right to the City)