In his interview with Gilles Anouil, Father Joseph Wresinski recounts the beginnings of the ATD Fourth World Movement in the homeless camp of Noisy-le-Grand.
— Therefore, you founded the Movement with the people concerned, themselves, didn’t you?
— What else could I have done? Don’t imagine I was a precursor of the notion of participation. I was one of them and I belonged to their community. Like them, I was cold and hungry. They made fun of me because I did not take advantage of my position as a priest. For instance, one day I was sitting on the ground and a woman accosted me and asked for money. I had nothing to give and I told her so. She then turned to the passers-by and started shouting, “Look at this priest who has nothing to give me!” To a man who had come to ask for some coal, I had to say that I was cold myself, that I had nothing to give him. He nearly knocked me out, but I was faster and knocked him to the ground, as a result of which I gained my reputation as a black belt.
To whom else could I have become allied? The situation I shared with the families was intolerable, not because of any particular fact, such as those I have just told you about, but because it went on and on. Had it lasted six months, it would have been bearable, but not after a year. At the end of two years, either I would have been revolted or I would have given up altogether and sunk to the bottom with the population. Our first association was born out of this fear; it was a way of sharing this daily tragedy. In fact, all that followed was born in the same way — out of reality, out of an overflow of injustice and out of the fear of sinking together. Everything came from a shared life, never from a theory.