Fighting fuel poverty with VoisinMalin in the neighborhood of l’Epeule in Roubaix
The Rexel Foundation is renewing its support to the VoisinMalin association to help disadvantaged families overcome fuel poverty.
The Rexel Foundation has supported VoisinMalin’s action since 2016. This new project, launched by the association in Roubaix in 2019, consists in identifying people in fuel poverty situations, offering them long-term assistance, and giving them the keys to improve their daily living conditions.
In practical terms, “employee-residents” trained by VoisinMalin support the beneficiaries by visiting them three times at their homes, and by putting them in contact with local actors.
These three home visits make it possible to:
- Detect fuel poverty situations while informing neighborhood inhabitants about good practices and available subsidies;
- Offer further support to a panel of voluntary residents on the actions to be taken in their specific case (financing solutions, social assistance, technical interventions, etc.) by putting them in direct contact with local actors;
- Measure the impact – throughout the course of the project and at its closure – to identify the remaining resistance points as well as the good practices to capitalize on.
The initial door-to-door campaign will be rolled out with visits to 400 neighborhood residents. This first contact will be followed by two other visits to about 30 residents who wish to become further involved in the approach.
The first visit helps to establish a contact with the residents and to assess the family situation and the main causes of their fuel poverty situation. It also provides the opportunity to offer the beneficiaries useful information on the energy market, billing and subscription systems, consumption allocation, equipment management and maintenance, and to raise their awareness of eco-friendly habits.
The residents also receive explanations on the subsidies they can apply for to help them pay bills and engage energy refurbishment works (“energy check,” FSL, NEHS, etc.) and are referred to the local resources available: Point info énergie, the social housing landlords’ social service or center, Maison de l’habitat, public letter writers, etc.
The aim of this initial interview, conducted by VoisinMalin “employee-resident” peers in an accessible language, is to establish a trusting relationship with the beneficiaries.
The next two visits target about 30 families, previously identified during the first encounter as being in a fuel poverty situation but also willing to receive further support and engage in a home improvement and energy consumption management initiative.
Beyond the individual help offered to these households, VoisinMalin aims to develop a structured resident collective allowing them to express their needs, share their experiences, and end isolation.
An expertise developed to strengthen the fight against fuel poverty
The VoisinMalin approach is driven by two main principles that have proven their effectiveness in helping beneficiaries overcome fuel poverty: communication and support. Via this project, VoisinMalin will be able to test the solutions prototyped during the previous brainstorming workshops and identify good practices and improvement points, with the aim of replicating the project in other territories.
By building on VoisinMalin’s experience and know-how in developing trusting relationships with the inhabitants, and to offer them further support, this pilot mission contributes to the works and knowledge gathered by the Rexel Foundation and its partners to lift vulnerable families out of fuel poverty.
Find out more about VoisinMalin
VoisinMalin operates in the French priority neighborhoods identified by the Ministry of Urban Affairs, where most of the large-scale social housing complexes are located, inhabited by nearly 5 million people and combining exclusion and strong social tensions, particularly in the 200 most vulnerable sites identified by the National Agency for Urban Renewal, home to 2 million people.
The association VoisinMalin identifies, hires, and trains employee-residents, known as “Voisins Malins” (“smart neighbors”), to act as home visitors in working-class neighborhoods. They make door-to-door visits, listen to their neighbors, and inform and mobilize them regarding the projects, services, and rights that concern them but that they do not take advantage of due to a lack of information, feeling of lack of legitimacy, or defiance towards institutions.
Recognized by the residents as peers, they act as messengers for different actors invested in the neighborhood (associations, local authorities, social housing landlords, and businesses) and are the carriers of last mile information, which is often the missing element from attempts to reach the targeted communities.
In addition to listening to inhabitants’ needs, VoisinMalin also provides advice to institutions and companies, allowing them to transform their practices and develop new, more suitable solutions.
The association is active in the Île-de-France region in the departments of Essonne (Evry Courcouronnes, Ris Orangis, Grigny), Seine-Saint-Denis (Aulnay-sous-Bois, Montreuil, Saint-Denis, Villetaneuse, Clichy-sous-Bois) and Val d'Oise (Villiers-le-Bel), as well as in Paris (19th arrondissement), Lille, Roubaix, Villeurbanne, and Marseille.