At 32, with his shaggy beard, Christophe Renier has a clever eye. Born in Montreuil, he did not have an easy childhood and also spent a long time at the Departmental Directorate of Health and Social Affairs (Ddass) in Val-de-Reuil (Eure). Even if today he lives with his best friend Évan near Rouen, after lots of odd jobs, his life could have fallen into radical precariousness due to illness. However, the man is above all generous. Moreover, realistic in the face of his situation, he has just spent eight months in the shoes of a homeless person to bring back a poignant testimony in a comic strip and raise funds for associations.
It was in March 2020 that Christophe arrived in Rouen. Unsanitary social housing makes him quickly move in with his friend. It was there, by dint of “discussions with associations on Instagram, that I had the idea of experimenting with living on the street to beg and thus raise funds for them. I’ve wandered before, but I’ve never slept outside.
Christophe therefore took a backpack, some clothes, his mobile phone, a sleeping bag and a tent: “My first experience lasted a week in December 2020. I left the house and did not return. The most difficult was the first night. We feel alone, on our own. It’s strange ! And, quickly, you have to adapt. After a few days, I realized that this was not enough to understand things, to experience the concrete”.
So, in March 2021, he leaves for three and a half weeks. Quickly, he feels the need “to call 115, social services. There, I see that there is no place for the new homeless. So, with a little money from the sleeve, I try accommodation in Airbnb and above all, I sleep in my tent in a park near Rouen. I even became friends with the guardian. During this immersion, what gave me the most problems was hygiene. How to wash? It’s very complicated, because nothing is available. It was at this moment that I became aware of living the street from the inside. It’s cold and risky. At night, it’s the hunt for money and drugs”.
A homeless tour of France
It is indeed during this second experience that Christophe experiences violence. He is assaulted for the few euros he has. This will happen to him again later in Lille. So, during these days of wandering and these nights on the lookout, Christophe wants to tell everything via social networks, but also in comics. He thus makes contact with the Parisian designer Melody Ung met on the Internet. Every day, they will exchange until developing an album entitled “Immersion, my experience as a homeless person from the red light districts to the cold light district”.
Christophe does not stop there. It’s decided, he’s going to help the poorest: “I’ve met a lot of people. I talked a lot with the homeless, many of whom see me as a fake, as if I was there for fun, to fatten up. Others really enjoyed the process. I became like their spokesperson. I also talked a lot with the associations. Thus, I decided in the street to set up my own association, Entr’Aide, the voice of the people and its vision. Its purpose is to raise funds for social structures.
4,600 euros donated to seven associations
Suddenly, he leaves from June to December for this time, a Tour of France. He quickly realizes “that Paris and Bordeaux are monstrous. Nobody takes care of you. That Mulhouse is more welcoming as well as Les Sables-d’Olonne during the summer. They gave me a royal peace. I even caught the attention of tourists and local media. I also went to Belgium. I discovered that there were days set aside for begging. More seriously, I played my part thoroughly, because I know that if my friend was not there, this would really be my situation”. Upon his return from the last two immersions, Christophe donated 4,600 euros to seven associations.
From these dives, Christophe retains only the experience, no philosophical analysis. The street is cruel. So, to publicize his association, he will certainly return there soon. “For the moment, with Evan, we are finalizing the statutes and we are starting to organize the actions. The sales of the comic book, volumes 2 and 3 of which are already on the way, will go entirely to aid as well as soon the entrance to concerts that we will be organizing with the Strasbourg group Alpha Heroes. We also prepare food maraudes, sleeping bags, emergency batteries, etc. The world of the street must no longer be taboo, that is our objective,” insists Christophe.
Instagram: @Christa. Whey