Some 4,000 miles east of DC lies Nice, the jewel of the French Riviera. An ancient city that traces its origins to Phoenicians, it is also the playground of the jet-setting rich. Even in winter the climate is mostly balmy. Like everywhere else the rich like to flaunt their richness; rain or shine, fur coats abound among Sunday strollers and the city’s harbor is packed with luxury yachts. Tied in serried ranks along the dock hundreds of millions of dollars of boats await their super-rich owners to jet down for a leisurely cruise on the Mediterranean. It is their land of milk and honey, their paradise.
Even so, poverty is never far away. Just like in our fair city, it is often rubbing shoulders with wealth. Across the quays from the super yachts, huddling in the archway in front of a church, there are clusters of homeless women and men. They don’t have far to go; they needn’t ‘jet in’. All their worldly possessions are scattered around them. Their luck, in a manner of speaking, is that the weather is mostly clement and that, in a truly French way, togetherness breeds camaraderie. More often than not, breakfast consists of a bottle of cheap red wine and a baguette, shared with others. At least the wine – a staple in each French household, rich or poor – is cheap. So is the bread, which is among the world’s best.
But beyond the camaraderie and the wine and bread, there is something else that distinguishes France’s homeless from their peers in other countries. All over France, in whichever city, most homeless people have at least one dog, sometimes two, and even a cat or two. The pets offer comfort, company, and friendship; ‘someone’ to care for. Perhaps they bring some joy and laughter, something to look forward to when waking up in the shadow of super yachts.