• A project for the temporary occupation of former administrative buildings in the Belsunce district of Marseille, Coco Velten houses both an accommodation centre, a solidarity canteen and workshops-offices.
  • The social landlord Marseille Habitat recently bought the 4,000 m² of surface area to rehabilitate the whole and also build social housing.
  • As the project celebrates its fifth anniversary this weekend, it is time to take stock, and questions for the survival of the "spirit" Coco Velten.

It's time to take stock for Coco Velten. Five years ago, this third place in Marseille opened where, a stone's throw from the Porte d'Aix, a shelter for the homeless, a solidarity canteen and workshops-offices coexist. All on 4,000 m² of former premises left empty by the departmental road directorate, which Marseille Habitat, the city's social landlord, has just acquired. "Good news" according to the teams in place, but which also raises strong questions: will the DNA of Coco Velten, a temporary occupation project like the Grands Voisins in Paris, survive?

"The first impression is the image of a successful experiment, there is no discussion to have on the subject, and our desire is that it lasts as long as possible," tries to reassure Alexandre Armentamo, director of real estate development at Marseille Habitat, during a meeting-discussion organized Friday to launch the festivities of the fifth anniversary. "The solidarity canteen will remain open throughout the work phase, its absence would annihilate all the work done in recent years," he continues.

Nearly 80 people with various profiles welcomed

Everyone agrees here on the importance of the canteen in the Coco Velten ecosystem. "It's a central place for a lot of social workers, for appointments outside the walls, as the people accompanied do not feel stigmatized here," says Camille Mordenti, social worker at the Coco Velten social hotel residence. The structure currently occupies two floors of the building, and welcomes 80 people in great precariousness and with various profiles: single men, single women, women with their children, families too.

"When I arrived in December 2020, I had addictions," says Steve. They helped me get out of it. Here I found a family. He stayed in Coco Velten for two years before finding an apartment. He often comes back to see people, and for "paperwork" too. The people accommodated stay an average of 324 days, and nearly 30 of them have subsequently found sustainable accommodation solutions. On other floors, there are the offices of about forty associations with a creative profile. They participate in the cultural programming of the canteen, which brings public and financial resources.

"It wasn't easy at first"

"It was not easy at first to work together, there was the confrontation of two worlds, admits Camille Mordenti. It has been a long work of deconstruction, listening, it is long and tedious, it shakes up professional practices, but it works. " It is this meeting point between the social, the solidarity economy and the cultural that the actors of Coco Velten want to maintain at all costs.

Kristel Guyon, from the Yes We Camp team, one of Coco Velten's three pilots, along with Plateau Urbain and the SOS group, admits: "Our shortcoming is to better create links with families in the neighbourhood. Our focus was on people in great precariousness, that they feel welcome. »

Start of work for 2024

"The question that concerns us today is what governance will be put in place to articulate these different sectors in the future building," asks Valentin Prelat, one of the coordinators of Coco Velten. For the team, the continuity of the spirit of the project is at stake. "The animation as it exists today will continue," says Alexandre Armentamo for Marseille Habitat, referring to the upcoming "call for expressions of interest" for candidate structures.

"Inevitably, the creation of social housing comes to impute surface, he adds. It is obvious that 1,000 m² will be missing. The remaining area for ancillary activities is currently being defined. The building permit must be filed at the end of the year, with work scheduled to start in 2024. And new premises delivered in phases between 2025 and 2026: first the accommodation centre, then the business premises, then the social housing. "Current events show us that there is a need for production," says Alexandre Armentamo.

  • Marseille
  • Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
  • PACA
  • Social housing
  • Housing
  • .SDF
  • Culture
  • Society