“For me, it’s not about managing information and the orders on the computer. It’s also about a dialogue with the residents. You have to listen.”
Together with Roxanne, François works as a caretaker at the Petit-Noisy social housing complex 400 apartments and 1,200 people.
“There’s a little woman who lives with her two children. She’s a very nice. She works as a cleaner and has to get up early every morning so that she can get to La Defense by six o’clock. From time to time one of her young children comes to see us when he needs some help with his homework.
Sometimes I alert certain parents. There’s a young kid about 12-13 years old, I said to his father: “Excuse me a minute, sir. I see your kid at 11 o’clock at night and I can tell you it’s not good.” He thanked me and now when he goes out for a walk at night, hey presto! He comes back with his son.
You have to know how to pass on a message without people feeling like you’re telling them what to do. If there’s ever a chance, I try, just to see if it works. In general, I know who I can and can’t have a quiet word with. For me that’s the community side of being the caretaker of an apartment building.”
Francois was born in Portugal. He was three when his father died, and his grandfather looked after him:
“With him it was always the look. Never a slap, always words. Respect. He talked about his daily life, his needs and problems: we didn’t have much money, we didn’t buy much. He was farmer and only ever bought good quality things. I thought that was very important and I passed that on to my children. […]
I’ve been here for two and a half years: in the job as building caretaker which I discovered with my former colleague and now with Roxanne. You see all the paper that I have? That’s all the rules of apartment building. I decided take them go door-to-door to make people aware: the hours concerning noise, how rubbish attracts rats…..as residents, people have rights but also obligations. They don’t always accept them and can say: ‘that’s not good for me”. But I explain to them that’s why I’m here and also to hear what’s not working out and see if I can resolve it.
Of the buildings I look after, this one affects me the most. I see the people’s problems, how the children suffer as a result of that. I was brought up with my cousins and was very supported, there were thirty of us, all together as a family on a big farm, in the middle of a corn field, with pigs, cattle, sheep, ducks, turkeys and goats…. We had everything! To pick the olives, I got on a horse or a tractor, I know how to trim olive and orange trees…
Today, it’s me who is the grandpa here but I have always liked kids. I find it really interesting to let them develop something of themselves. In the youth space, an association (through the intermediary of the association La Sablière), came to ask the kids if they wanted to make a robot, they all said yes. Another association helps kids fix their bikes: even if post of them don’t have one, the idea is still a good one. These are practical things which help kids develop.”