Nov 21st, 2016, 01:04 PM

Former Homeless Man Pays It Forward

By Julien El-Hajj
Photo Credit: Imantsu, Shutterstock
Runs real estate agency to help homeless find housing, hope

Homeless at 17, Jean Pierre Boudhar spent many months on the streets. He slept alone under the sky and stars of a city in the north of France. Forty years later, Boudhar has turned it all around and now owns a real estate agency dedicated to helping the homeless community.

Though his is a story of pain and hope, Boudhar doesn’t like to remember his sad past.

“I went through a real tragedy, I prefer not to remember those moments," he said. "I used to sleep on a bench in the street or in the entrance of a building, or even in a car or a train station. Life was not easy, but I was very vigilant. I cared about my  hygiene, never drank alcohol or took drugs."

Boudhar's life took a 180 when he walked into a bistrot and shared a cup of tea with three students. They asked him about his situation and he told them briefly about his journey.

"I was really lucky," he said. "The students offered me to stay in their place for one and only night. That’s what happened. I slept in my room that night and left the following day.”

The invitation recurred and Boudhar became a permanent fixture in the house.

"Through them, I got to know a different society, the students and their friends discuss politics, literature and philosophy," he said. "On my birthday they offered me a Nietzsche [book]. My eyes has opened to life. Today, 40 years later, I am still in contact with them, they have changed my life.”

The ex-homeless man decided to convey his experience to other people living the harshness of this life. Boudhar now owns two buildings in France. Around 20 people reside in each. They inhabit small rooms and share 2 kitchens and 4 bathrooms. They are all homeless, Boudhar asks for less than 100 Euros per month. The rest of the costs are insured by several organizations.

Photo Credit: Robert Hoetink, Shutterstock

Boudhar admits that he is somewhat strict with the patrons living in his buildings. He aims to help them find a solution for their situation and is keen on cleanliness and security in his residences. He also offers advice to the people he encounters. He encourages them to have faith in themselves and to never give up. He knows that many of the homeless do not look to change anything in their lives. He stresses that he cannot offer rehabilitation, it is only a temporary help and hopefully a solution.

Boudhar took note of the migration and refugees crisis, which he is very concerned about. He blames the people living “above” and ignore what is happening “below.” “It is a world of deals and interests and greed,” he said.

“Put yourself in their shoes, enough selfishness,  he said. "They sit in their warm salons and judge. I really hope I can offer to every person criticizing the refugees, a plane ticket so he can go see the tragedies in their countries. Our world lacks of mercy, of thoughtful hearts and minds.”

While talking, Jean Pierre quotes and mentions people and personalities who made a big difference in this world. He does not know that what he is doing is similar in a way.

“I work on a small scale, with the small power and means I have, I try to make this world better, as much as possible," he said.