Jean-Michel Giraud, director and president of Friendship Place. Credits: MD.

Jean-Michel Giraud is an idealist. "My hope is to try to do good every day"says Friendship Place President and CEO, who received a $ 1 million donation from Amazon in June as part of a partnership to reduce homelessness. A first for this regional association. Recognized in the United States for its practical and functional solutions to fight homelessness in the Washington area, Friendship Place has helped 3,700 people to find a home and a job in 2018. At the head of the association since 2006, Jean -Michel Giraud has lived 40 years in the heart of the American humanitarian world.

Originally from a small village in the Isere, he discovered the United States at the dawn of his 18 years, during a trip with his brother. "I lived in downtown San Francisco. At the time, hotels were rented by the week, says the Frenchman who was destined for a career as a language teacher. I returned to France, but I had already planned to leave. Even at that age, I immediately realized that the United States would be much more than a trip. I felt that my culture was here. "

Influenced by the cultural and social change that raged through the streets of San Francisco in the 1980s, the trilingual student decided to stay in his adopted country. "I'm LGBT, and what was going on in California at that time changed everything for me. I stayed before going to New England where I lived more than ten years. Exposed very quickly to the humanitarian, he then works in several non-profit associations for the mentally handicapped.

An association known throughout the United States

After leading several psychiatric residences in Maryland, he joined Friendship Place in 2006. Realizing that many addicts were being left behind, the new CEO decided to set up the project. "Neighbors first". The idea: to provide housing for all, without differentiating between those who are dependent and those who are not. Very quickly, the program spreads across the country.

Jean-Michel Giraud and his teams then launch many programs that significantly improve the situation of homeless people in Washington. Following the financial crisis of 2009, the association created a job placement program. "We assume that everyone has the ability to find a job. We realized that it was very rewarding, very motivating "explains the Frenchman. It is thanks to this program that Friendship Place was contacted by Amazon in 2019. The association also offers a program for veterans and young people and has set up psychiatric consultations at the reception center. In addition to its teams, Friendship Place also works with about fifty volunteers.

Jean-Michel Giraud knows that the fight will be long. "I think after the election of Donald Trump, there was this push for racism for some, but there were also many reactions against racism and attacks against LGBT people. This is often happening in the United States, there is a sense of justice "he hopes. In any case, the old Isérois will not give up. "This area allows me to do something that adds meaning to life: helping others. If I had stayed in France, I would surely have become a language teacher. Here, I could do other things, I had a choice. "


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