In 2003, Ayyem Zamen –meaning The Good Old Time in Tunisian Arabic opened its first Café Social in the Parisian area of Belleville. Five years later, a second Café Social opened its doors in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. Both Cafés are based in historically working-class parts of the city which gather large populations of elderly migrants, making their presence in those communities particularly relevant.
What is a Café Social?
A Café Social is a place that encompasses all the essential functions of a traditional French Café, where one can enter freely, enjoy coffee, tea, and refreshments at a very reasonable price. Above all, it is a space ran by social case workers, multidisciplinary facilitators, and volunteers who on top of their daily tasks at the Café are committed to assisting the charity’s members with administrative paperwork and everyday needs. With its particular focus on elderly migrants from precarious socio-economic backgrounds, the charity has indeed at heart to ensure their access to, and the maintenance of, their social rights through close administrative assistance.
Most importantly, the Café Social is an open-minded and friendly environment where one will always find a helping hand and a listening ear to confide in. More than a regular café, the Café Social aims to end the isolation experienced by a number of precarious elderly migrants who having left their families abroad, often find themselves without immediate social circles on which to rely for all important aspects of life.
Missions and Activities
- Social and administrative support: From Monday to Friday, the Café Social holds three-hour long administrative permanencies in the morning where our case workers, facilitators, and volunteers, after evaluating a person’s particular request, are in charge of advising, redirecting, or directly processing their demand. Administrative requests that require in depth assessment are redirected towards the social case worker who will evaluate the person’s needs during private appointments. During these appointments, the case worker in charge proceeds to the overall evaluation of a person’s socio-economic situation along with their potential needs. If needed, they then elaborate a support strategy and meet over several appointments to ensure that any ongoing procedure is adequately carried through. In view of our public’s high illiteracy rates, the structure specializes in the preparation, conception, and drafting of retirement dossiers that can prove complicated and intricate. Retirement often compromises the stability that had been secured through employment, hence calling for a reevaluation of all other fronts (health, housing, sociability) when the time comes.
- Mobile social team: Ever since the Café’s opening in 2003, the team at Ayyem Zamen has noticed the acceleration of our public’s ageing. When only 32% of our adherents were over 70 years old in 2010, they were, as of 2019, 43% over that age including 10% over 80 years old. With age emerges new issues and challenges: loss of autonomy and mobility, cognitive disorders, memory loss etc. Having noticed that several adherents have stopped visiting the Cafés due to the consequences of ageing and illness, the team decided to put in place an équipe sociale mobile (mobile social team). Since 2020, the team has been in charge of assisting those most vulnerable at home, providing close administrative assistance and maintaining social ties with the Cafés.
- Shared Homes: In 2014, an agreement with the Direction régionale et Interdépartementale de l’Hébergement et du Logement (Regional and Interdepartmental Board for Housing and Accommodation) as well as a convention with Paris Habitat, designated Ayyem Zamen as the rightful rental intermediary of initially four then six large apartments situated close to the Cafés. This new project called the Domiciles Partagés (Shared Homes) came after the alarming realization that many of the charity’s adherents lived in poor housing conditions. A Shared Home is a four- to five-bedroom apartment that hosts three people living as co-tenants. In addition to providing a long-lasting solution to our public’s housing needs, this housing project adequately assists and surrounds them throughout ageing.