For this 34-year-old resident of Roubaix (North), daily life is akin to “survival”, with a monthly budget of around 1,200 euros. “We restrict ourselves, we hold on, but it’s getting harder and harder,” she told AFP.

Worried about rising bills, she does “everything (her) possible to save”: “To sleep, we put all the mattresses in a room downstairs, it avoids heating elsewhere”.

Samuel Coppens, spokesman for the Salvation Army, explains having “real fears”. “People are already cutting corners on all sides and there will also be the issue of heating” which will weigh on budgets, he said to AFP. “We are trying to put ourselves in battle order to be able to accommodate a greater number of people” this winter.

The government set up this year a “tariff shield” which limits the rise in electricity prices to 4%. But the measure is insufficient for households with tight budgets, warn the associations.

Consumer prices rose 5.6% in September (from 5.9% in August). The increase for food products alone, however, to which the most modest households devote a larger share of their income, accelerated over one year: it was 7.9% in August, it rose to 9.9 % in September.

In this context, “even more people risk having trouble or not heating themselves”, declares to AFP Christophe Robert, general delegate of the Abbé Pierre Foundation, who is asking for a “very strong increase” in the energy check.

– “Constraints to return” –

Another point of concern: the “price shield” will be less protective next year, since it plans to limit the increase in electricity and gas prices to 15%.

Jean Stellittano, national secretary of the Secours populaire, anticipates “very significant adjustments to the invoices”. “This will cause a shock wave, we must prepare for it”.

The association notes an increase in attendance at its reception points: 15% in the Alpes-Maritimes in August compared to summer 2021, 14% in Haute-Garonne, 6% in the Rhône, etc.

“These are mainly families, poor workers. And sometimes people who had left our systems and are forced to return”, describes the manager.

In Paris, the Marmoulins de Ménil association has also received more requests since the start of the school year, according to its president, Yves Leccia. Volunteers collect unsold items from the Rungis market three times a week to put together baskets and distribute them to people on low incomes in the 20th arrondissement (north-east).

Faced with the increase in attendance, “we ask people to come only once a week”, indicates Yves Leccia to AFP.

Hayette, 58, goes regularly to these distributions. Her manager’s salary and her husband’s “small pension” “are not enough” for everyday expenses, she explains after putting her basket for the day in her bag.

“Electricity, gas, it’s going to be horrible. I prefer not to think about it” so as “not to have a stomach ache”, confides this mother of three children still in her care. “We live day by day and we will see”.

More than 9 million people in metropolitan France (14.6% of the population) live below the poverty line, i.e. less than 1,102 euros per month for a single person and 2,314 euros for a couple with two children, according to data from INSEE.

* the name has been changed