Belleville in the 20th arrondissement used to be a village outside Paris until 1860. Rising to a hill, one of the highest points now in the city, it holds a reservoir and the best views. I took a walking tour sponsored by Alternative Urbain, an association who employ SDF - sans domicile fixe or homeless - as guides who give these tours. You can find Alternative Urbain on FB. What better way to visit the streets of Paris than with people who have lived in them, literally. The programme was launched a year ago by Alternative Urbaine, a four-member start-up that aims to bring homeless back from the fringes of society.Its motto: tourism "should have a positive effect on society".
Homelessness has long been a problem in the city, but the situation today is very different than it was for the old-time vagrants or colourful characters immortalised in Orwell's 1933 classic, Down and Out in London and Paris.
People begging, living in tents, on sleeping bags or under cardboard sheets is now a common sight after homeless numbers spiked dramatically, a situation blamed on the economic crisis and a sharp rise in housing prices.
The latest figures from 2012 say more than 28,000 people have no fixed residence -- with a big increase in women and entire families -- while shelters or emergency accommodation can't cope with demand.
This is a great walking tour and even if you only speak English there's an intern who will translate for you. And the price - a donation of one euro. But of course I'd encourage you to slip more in the donation box. Our guide, a Socialist, had lived here and spiced her commentary with how it was and contrasting it to now.This street artist, I forget his name, is famous and this little boy is one of his first paintings.