In the front line
Under the auspices of a social housing organization that manages thirteen thousand homes in Ile de France for thirty thousand people, there is an informal community of a hundred caretakers, each living on the site for which they are responsible. It might be a housing estate, a block of flats, a bar, or a retirement home, but it is usually in a difficult inner city neighbourhood. On the ground, the caretakers are in the front line. There is Aicha in Fresnes, Nadine in Villiers le Bel, Lucie in Blanc-Mesnil, Eduardo in Clichy Sous Bois. Right across the different neighbourhoods, the guards are an invisible yet supportive community. They keep in touch, by internet or by phone. They get together at the company headquarters or “among friends”. They swap stories of tenants and events: it might be an accident, a fire, a flood, a crisis, or a neighbourhood riot; but also an emergency childbirth, a party, or a moving tale of mutual help. Or an estate that may be demolished and is seeking a future.