Le Refuge's main office in Montpellier, which also serves as a common room for the young people who live here, has two computers, a threadbare couch, a refrigerator and a microwave. Flyers on the walls talk about AIDS prevention, vocational counseling and other opportunities to get help.
Since its founding in 2003, Le Refuge has cared for about 200 young people, including 80 in the last year alone, says Nicolas Noguier, 33, who is the organization's founder. About 70 percent of the people living there are young men. Most come from Muslim families.
When new arrivals show up, they are often physical and mental wrecks. Many have muddled through life on the street, dazed by drugs and forced to sell their bodies. Others have been threatened with death. They come to Le Refuge, desperate and shocked. People have shown up with the remnants of their prior lives packed into two garbage bags. Nine of them, including Amine, have told their story in the 2010 book "Casse-toi!" ("Get out!"), from the noted French author Jean-Marie Périer.
Those who seek a place at Le Refuge commit to weekly counseling sessions, where they get help from a psychologist. Five volunteers help the youths with their daily needs and help them bring a bit more structure to their unstable lives.
Although the victims come from many places and different social backgrounds, around half of them come from strict religious households, such as Amine.