Homelessness is a difficulty that continues to plague first world nations as well as third world ones, and although the social welfare is far better in western Europe, more shelters have opened in Brussels to meet the growing need of beds for rough sleepers.
Homeless in Brussels
It is estimated that 2,600 people sleep rough in the EU capital and 150 people at any given night. The contributing factors for homelessness are varied, and often misconceptions and uninformed stigma about the homeless can lead to placidity in public opinion. However, the fact is that reoccurring themes of poor mental health, substance addiction or no family support have got many of these people on the streets, and once in the cycle, getting back on their feet can be difficult.
Shelter for those in need
Over 1,200 homeless shelters are available for the winter and an additional 300 recently opened after new legislation was made to address the growing demand. These shelters provide beds, showers, warm food and medical and psychiatric help available for those in attendance; giving them a chance to get back on their feet. Despite the great work organisations like Samusocial do in housing people throughout the rough months, some activists fear this may just be providing longevity to the problem rather than fixing it.
Freek Spinnewijn, director of the Brussels-based European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, said: “Homelessness is increasing fast in Brussels and street homelessness/rough sleeping rose sharply between 2010 and 2014. Crisis is an overused term at the EU level and yet what we are currently witnessing is nothing short of a social emergency.”
It’s not clear what could have contributed to the rise of homeless in Brussels, but with Europe having undergone a recent migrant crisis, conjecture is that many from the recently demolished “Jungle” in Calais lead many people to Brussels.
This along with lack of awareness from Belgian officials has helped fostered a lack of concern on the issue-with a Flemish Politician, Theo Franken, even tweeting that the government should “clean up the park”-referring to Maximillian park in Brussels where homeless refugees were sleeping.
A hope for rough sleepers
With the Flemish parliament acting to explore homelessness amongst teenagers and young people, and with projects like ORIG-AMI seeking to provide portable cardboard accommodation to the homeless of Brussels, steps are being taken to aid and alleviate the number of homeless sleepers, but whether these measures will be enough is yet to be seen.