Home Sketch The Room, Paris (France) by Mathieu Letellier (aka. Mat Let)

The Room, Paris (France) by Mathieu Letellier (aka. Mat Let)


Barbès, Gare du Nord and Porte de la Chapelle are a number of the liveliest neighbourhoods of Paris. They’re additionally gritty, noisy locations and so they type a triangle that has been the primary place for drug trafficking and consuming within the metropolis for the previous 30 years.

A Drug Consumption Room was created within the space in 2016. It has a public well being goal by providing improved drug consumption circumstances for drug customers ; and a public tranquility goal by eradicating the act of consumption from the streets.

Early 2020, I used to be requested by Médecins du Monde (Mdm), a charity which participated within the creation of the Room, to go and draw there to create a graphic reportage.

Folks at Mdm thought approaching the place by way of sketching would enable me to attach simply with customers and humanize them, after they’d been stigmatized a lot within the media and within the society.



I knew nothing about arduous medicine, besides from what I had seen in motion pictures like Trainspotting or Requiem for a Dream which, didn’t precisely make me really feel like studying extra about it.

However I knew the facility of sketching, the way it valorizes individuals and locations and though I used to be a bit scared, It felt like I couldn’t miss the chance to find a world that was utterly new to me.

So I mentioned sure.

On a March afternoon I arrive on the Room for the primary time, with no coaching in any respect. My objective is to find and perceive issues on my own, by observing and sketching the whole lot.

I spend my first day there on the reception desk.

And guess what: the environment may be very relaxed, with cuban salsa and a variety of jokes. Not precisely the gloomy opium den I had envisioned.

Most individuals who work on the Room are both social employees or nurses and so they change with workstations each hour.

Sooner or later, one of many nurses, Sam, insists on listening to some odd punk tune, after which simply leaves.

The others rush to vary the music and begin complaining : « she all the time does that !! »



Everybody will get managed upon arrival. Customers must state their identify and beginning date (most use pseudos).

Most groups members know everybody’s identify and birthday by coronary heart! Type phrases and jokes are exchanged, one can really feel the honest care the group brings to the customers, as most of them come a number of occasions per week and even a number of occasions a day.


All customers have to indicate the product they will use and the consumption is systematically monitored to keep away from overdoses. 


To my shock, the most well-liked drug right here isn’t heroin or cocaine, it’s Skenan, which I had by no means heard of earlier than. 

Skenan is definitely a morphine-based painkiller that individuals normally get from their physician. Among the customers get it legally, some from the black market. One capsule prices round 5€.


On a well being standpoint, the excellent news is customers know precisely how sturdy the capsules are and the way a lot they want, opposite to heroin which could be minimize with different merchandise. So, the overdose threat is mitigated by way of Skenan.


The dangerous information is, they don’t use it as capsules, however dilute it after which inject it for a stronger impact, which will increase dangers for his or her well being.



One other factor that surprises me is how they discuss their consumption. Lots of them say « I’m going to type myself out ». It feels fairly bizarre to me that doing medicine might be some type of a treatment, however I assume I’ll perceive later.


As I’m sitting and sketching on the reception, customers come and go and I continually must interrupt my large sketch to file the loopy story I’m seeing or listening to.




« Twine » storms in, tremendous nervous. He’s lengthy, skinny, sweaty and yelling that « heads will roll ». Nobody is aware of whose heads he’s speaking about, nevertheless it doesn’t appear to be ours. When individuals inform him to relax, he says he’s really calm.


I’m bit scared however I can see the group may be very skilled and is aware of how one can cope with him.


He leaves to the opposite room to eat. Later, once I present individuals my sketch, all of them begin laughing « that is good previous Twine !! »




Oliver79 is theatrically explaining his final arrest. The police put him of their truck and requested him to get bare to see if he had medicine hidden within him… Which he did, however he managed to maintain it hidden! Then they discovered that he had crack hidden in his mouth too and so they began choking him in order that he would spit it out. He did, however the tiny piece of drug flew although the truck and bought caught someplace the policemen couldn’t attain… So, with none drug possession proofs, they needed to launch him.


Oliver is laughing as he remembers the policemen’s faces after they let him go.


However his story is definitely not humorous in any respect. On this case, the police weren’t allowed to strip search him within the truck. It’s only authorized to take action contained in the police station. Choking him was unlawful too. However right here on the Room, nobody appears shocked: medicine customers bear police violence each day.




Gianni is taken out of the consumption house on a wheelchair, since he’s very weak. Everybody right here is aware of him. He bares on his physique traces of a protracted and harsh journey with medicine.


However as weak as he could be, Gianni didn’t lose his bearings: he needs a TV!! And he begins asking everybody to present him one. Most individuals within the group inform him they don’t even have one at dwelling…


You’ll be able to really feel that Gianni is a little bit of a comic and the entire scene is a little bit of a drama. However then we begin to perceive: Gianni was supplied an emergency lodging in a lodge, since he normally lives on the road. It’s a great alternative for him to relaxation and get higher, however he’s determined as a result of there isn’t a television: « If I don’t have a TV, what am i gonna watch? The ceiling? I’m afraid I’ll begin smoking crack… »

One can really feel real despair in his phrases.


However then the comic in him comes again to the floor. He involves me and says : « Hey Mat, you would a minimum of draw me!! And I’d be yelling I WANT A TV !!!!!! ».


Problem accepted !



One of many main misunderstandings concerning the Room is concerning the companies it offers.

Despite the fact that its major objective is to make sure protected consumption circumstances to the customers, it has way more to supply.


The Room is a spot the place customers can strengthen their hyperlink with society. The general public who come there are homeless and have little or no assets. 


David is a social employee who’s specialised in serving to customers get entry to their rights.

Step one is usually to get them a submit handle. Ranging from there they’ll get in contact with the administration to say healthcare and the RSA, a minimal allowance of some hundred euros per thirty days.


David and the remainder of the group additionally cope with housing requests. Because the pandemic hit, 4 hundred lodge rooms have been opened for drug customers in Paris. Getting out of the road helped a lot of them stabilize.

Some rooms are additionally used for emergency relaxation, however individuals can’t keep in these greater than three nights in a row.


The augmented housing capability has been of nice assist, however the demand remains to be a lot greater than the precise capability and the group will get actual complications attempting to assist these in want of a spot to remain.


One other impact of the pandemic is that the Room now affords a brand new manner of utilizing syringes: customers can come and get vaccinated !



After a couple of weeks of sketching and attending to know the group and the customers, I lastly set foot within the injection room.


Now it’s for actual. I’ve by no means seen somebody injecting medicine and I’m afraid my presence might be a breach within the customers’ intimacy.


However after 5 minutes in there, I can see that I used to be mistaken. Customers are used to the place being fairly crowded. 

A social employee and a nurse are all the time there to present them the stuff they want and supervise them and customers come and go on a regular basis.


Customers carry their very own medicine, however usually are not allowed to carry syringes or different equipment from the surface. Once they arrive, they need to wash their fingers and whereas doing so that they normally order the fabric they want. 

Relying on the drug they use and the way they use it, syringes, filtres and so on differ so much.


Then they sit on one of many chairs and do their factor. They’ve as much as 20 minutes to take action and may ask for recommendation from a nurse, however nurses can in no case manipulate the medicine or bodily assist with the injection. They’re there to present technical and well being recommendation.




On this primary go to I don’t enable myself to attract the customers whereas they’re injecting, or solely from distant.


However I’m observing them out of the nook of my eye. I’m shocked to see that none of them are taking pictures from the bend of the elbow, like within the motion pictures.

Some discover veins within the forearm, within the leg… it appears there are a lot of potentialities !


There are many conversations happening and a request retains coming again: « do you’ve a lighter? ». It’s used to dilute the capsules (blended with different substances) to allow them to inject the product into their veins. The group give them the whole lot they want besides the lighters, so that they preserve asking one another for one and when there’s one, it travels all throughout the room.


When somebody is completed, they put the used materials within the yellow bin and a group member comes to scrub the desk and chair.

When a chair is leaned in opposition to the desk, everyone knows the spot is clear and can be utilized.






The group offers me the commonest provides and explains to me how issues work: the cup to heat the product, the water to dilute it. Then they suck the product into the syringe by way of the filter.


As I’m drawing the provides, I’m sitting on one of many chairs, identical to everybody else. Group members who arrive within the room make enjoyable of me: « You’re proper Mat, one of the simplest ways to grasp it’s to attempt it! ».


I actually really feel silly and I attempt to argue that my habit to chocolate is difficult sufficient to cope with and makes me reluctant to attempt something stronger… and everybody laughs at me some extra!




I met Tom on one in all my first days on the Room. He has been very good with me and really wanting to share his tales and experiences.


Someday, as he’s queuing to get contained in the injection house, he asks me: « Would you like me to indicate you the way it works? »


After all I do.


He washes his fingers, will get his provides and sits down. He’s utilizing Skenan in the present day. He dilutes it rapidly and fills the syringe. He has many one centimeter-long wounds in his forearm and infrequently makes use of the identical spot to do his injections.


He’s commenting the whole lot he does for me to grasp, however issues usually are not nice: he can’t discover a vein and he’s getting increasingly more nervous. 

Sooner or later he warns me he received’t be commenting anymore as a result of he must focus. He appears very tense and pissed off.


Every time he sticks the needle in his arm, he sucks in some blood. If a variety of blood comes again contained in the syringe it means it’s in a vein and he can inject. If not, he should begin once more. After 3 or 4 makes an attempt, the syringe lastly goes all crimson. He pushes the product in. His face will get crimson and sweaty and… that’s it.


He cleans his arm, throws the used materials away and we head out.




We sit down exterior for some time and Tom tells me how it’s to be longing for medicine.

He tells me that after 6 or 8 hours with out consuming (particularly within the morning), your physique begins being numb and painful. You get muscle aches and really feel chilly, so much like whenever you get a flu.


Very quickly after you get your shot, you begin being afraid of the return of the ache.


That is why many customers say they will get « sorted out ». Consuming medicine is how they return to regular, how they « treatment » the craving and the ache that goes with it.


I ask him about tripping, concerning the pleasure facet of it. 

« I haven’t tripped in a very long time, and the tripping half didn’t final lengthy » is his reply. 


Tom is a hardcore consumer. Aside from Skenan, he makes use of crack that he smokes or injects. 


He began fairly younger, his then girlfriend launched him to injection a very long time in the past. Due to the Room’s group he has lived in a lodge for a 12 months, which has stabilized him a bit after being homeless for some time, however he nonetheless makes use of so much and may be very skinny with deep, deep eyes.


After a little bit of chatting I can really feel him getting nervous. He needs a cigarette and doesn’t have one. No one round us can present one, so he apologizes to me and goes on a quest for one more addictive substance.


We’ll discuss later.



The Room used to have a resting house nevertheless it has been closed as a consequence of Covid.


So now, individuals hand around in the yard. Earlier than they get in, they often must queue for a couple of minutes. That is when tensions typically seem: since they’re craving, a few of them get nervous and there’s shouting each every now and then.


However Bader and Mamadou are right here to verify the whole lot is okay. They’re mediators and so they come into play when issues get a little bit messy. In the event that they ask individuals to cease yelling, everybody obeys rapidly, which is nice information because the neighbors aren’t all very pleased concerning the presence of the Room.

Bader and Mamadou’s directions are revered not solely as a result of they’re two large guys. It’s as a result of they’ve the belief and respect of the customers.

Most customers completely love the group members and luxuriate in chatting with them within the yard, after they bought sorted out. 

It appears a few of them are very reluctant to return to the « exterior world ».There may be one good motive for this: the Room is sort of the one place the place drug customers get respect and care as an alternative of stigmatization and violence. 





I get requested so much if this venture, that has been ongoing for greater than 6 months, isn’t « too arduous » on me.


And the reply is not any.


The Room is an extremely full of life place. Sure, individuals who come there have very robust issues and really harsh lives. Sure, issues go loopy each every now and then.


However within the yard, there are joke contests, humorous workouts, stay music, cute canine and unimaginable life tales to be exchanged. There may be additionally solidarity, care and respect far and wide.


It’s primarily a spot the place individuals really feel dangerous after they arrive and a little bit higher after they depart.


It’s a spot stuffed with humanity in its hideous magnificence. And identical to my fellow human beings, I really feel a little bit higher after every go to. 







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