In 2007, after working for one year with the group Emmaüs, the French equivalent of Good Will, Charles-Edouard became frustrated by the lack of economic incentives in the assistance system for the homeless. He decided to launch his own innovative solution to make employment a lever of social reintegration for homeless people. He has sought to demonstrate that, in spite of all their challenges, the homeless possess the desire to be employed and improve their life conditions. Charles-Edouard conceived a step-by-step work system for the homeless, with a possibility to work 1, 2 or 4 hours a week, until reaching the capacity to sign a 24-hour contract and get a full-time “insertion” job. To do so, Charles-Edouard has created a chain of second-hand stores where diverse types of goods are collected, sorted, renovated, and then sold. The key advantage of this activity is to offer a larger range of jobs, thus enabling homeless workers to find an occupation that is adapted to their abilities. To target and accompany the right people, Charles-Edouard created a network of street social workers who identify and develop special bonds with the homeless who then become their clients and improve their confidence to return to work. Today, the company offers 100 insertion positions to carry out the mainstream activities, while about thirty homeless people irregularly work on demand. In two years, 95 percent of the homeless that have used the “hourly work system” have managed to sign a job contract of at least 24 hours (weekly), and 84 percent of the homeless employees are now stabilized in the structure.
Charles-Edouard has built his system on unprecedented partnerships with social workers and public institutions to enable a long-term and integrated follow-up of the homeless. By setting up a new set of metrics and creating team-of-teams collaborations, Charles-Edouard shifts the way professionals work and enables greater professional and personal impact for the homeless. The evaluation tool he has invented highlights, for the first time, the progress of a homeless person across nineteen criteria which includes employment, housing, health, legal status, and administration topics. Each homeless person in the program is rated according to the nineteen criteria every three months as a way of pinpointing where collaborative services need to be improved. This system of regular, global measurements highlights the positive, systemic impact of employment on all the other criteria that are necessary for social integration. Charles-Edouard can then rely on this new perspective to emphasize the need to change the insertion system in France.
To scale and sustain his solution, Charles-Edouard seizes opportunities with private and public partners to launch activities that fit three objectives: employ homeless people, generate income to cover additional related costs, and are useful for poor populations. Indeed, based on the success of his first shop, he has convinced the City of Paris to make a commitment to provide facilities for a chain of ten second-hand stores under the brand Bric à brac until 2014, in order to meet the challenges of employment, local community life, and waste recycling. At the same time, Charles-Edouard collaborates with top private companies to develop new businesses with economic potential while also creating social impact by offering goods and services to poor populations. He has set up a social project with the French telecom operator SFR to sell low-cost prepaid phone cards. Already 1,300 underprivileged and often in debt persons have benefited from this initiative and the system is now being replicated nationally. As a result of a partnership with a French supermarket chain, Carrefour, Charles-Edouard is creating the first furnishing Bank to sell low-cost home equipment to low-income families.