A Creamisu customer plays guitar in the music room
Photo: Jess Bauldry
Caritas is helping homeless people find creative relief from their situation. Delano paid a visit to the Creamisu socio-cultural project in Bonnevoie.
Inside the old police station in Bonnevoie, a man is writing a letter. In the room next door, another is strumming guitar while a woman sits and listens. The scene would not be remarkable except that if they were not here, these three people would have nowhere to go. They are among the 70 different people to use the services of Creamisu, a dedicated creative space for some of Luxembourg’s most vulnerable people--the homeless.
“The main idea is to offer them a place where they can express themselves, where there’s music, creativity, where they can regain their self-confidence and forge links with the staff, who signpost them to specific services,” Caritas welcome and emergency department chief Stéphanie Sorvillo explains.
The project, which was launched at the end of 2016, moved from the homeless shelter, the Centre Ulysse to its current address in April 2019. The new site, for which they have a three-year lease, offers an unconditional place for people living on the edge of society to create, make music, cook food, anything to temporarily forget their situation.
“The moment you do music, you’re transported to another place. It’s a bit like this principle of mindfulness. You forget who you are. You forget your problems, whether you’re drawing or making music,” musician and community education worker Luca Parisi explains.
Nathalie Scheer and Luca Parisi. Photo: Jess Bauldry
For a centre with a low entry threshold and just under two full-time staff members, Creamisu achieves an incredible amount. Its team of art therapy volunteers helps provide instruction in drumming, singing, reading music and more. It organises exhibitions, concerts and last year, Creamisu produced its first CD, “Mir sinn aarme Sai”, pooling the talents of customers and musicians like Claudine Muno and Serge Tonnar.
Since then, two of the contributors have found jobs. “I was really happy that it helped people to make this step,” Parisi says. Visitors can purchase the CD and handmade items such as jewellery and decorations in the front room of the centre. It is also here that people can participate in craft workshops or simply write, repair an item of clothing or draw.
Beyond this room is the music room, brimming with donated musical instruments where impromptu jam sessions are known to take place. Next door to that is a small kitchen, where customers will sometimes cook meals and eat together. “They can show people the food from their own country. Last week we cooked every day, and each day it was a different kind of cuisine,” says project manager Nathalie Scheer.
Photos from a photography contest are displayed on a board. Photo: Jess Bauldry
Access to accommodation
A workshop at the back of the site provides space for woodwork and upcycling workshops. When I visit on 25 November, it is providing a temporary parking space for a prototype tiny house.
Each customer arrives at homelessness differently. But the difficulty of accessing housing affects all of Creamisu's customers. Even if social services provides a tenancy guarantee, “it’s hard to find a cheap flat to rent,” says Sorvillo, adding that social housing is often reserved for single parent families or those on a minimum wage. Various shelters offer temporary beds, but many limit the offer to homeless people who have a residents’ card. Without a fixed address, this is next to impossible to obtain. During the coldest winter months, emergency beds are offered at the WanterAktioun in Findel. But this is purely an emergency winter measure, which ends 31 March 2020.
“Now there is a national strategy for homelessness, which ends in 2020,” Sorvillo says. She hopes that the government will conduct a study of the needs of Luxembourg’s homeless community and an analysis of the effectiveness of measures like Creamisu, in helping people to start over. “Without that, it is difficult to say if things have gotten better or worse,” she says.
Until then, Creamisu soldiers on, striving to bring out the creative potential of its customers and chipping away at the stigma that homelessness carries.
Creamisu is open weekdays from 9:30am to 6pm. Anyone interested in volunteering to offer art therapy activities is urged to get in touch by emailing [email protected]