The winter measures allowed 3,522 different people to find shelter and offered 106,801 overnight stays, revealed Christophe Thielens, spokesperson for Samusocial (a municipal emergency humanitarian service). 2,619 were single men, 386 were single women, and 517 came as a family, with children. The families were welcomed through an emergency facility at a special new centre. The welcoming capacity was increased by 10% in a year, and reached 1,000 beds available according to demand and to temperatures. The occupancy rate varied between 90 and 100%.
As well as the Samusocial building on Rue du Petit Rampart which can house 110, and the former care home on Rue Kennis which is paid for by the federal government and offers 300 beds, mainly to women, a building on Rue Royale and with 300-350 beds was made available by the CPAS (social services). The “extreme cold” measures were put in place at the end of January, with the 150 extra beds available Chaussee de Mons in Anderlecht. This centre closed mid-March. Homeless families were welcomed in the former IBGE building (Brussels Institute for Environment Management) in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (150 beds), relocated on February 20th from Rue du Trone (with 130 beds). This centre for homeless families opened on April 1st, 2014, in reaction to the needs of many women with children who had no home to go to at the end of the winter measures.
Christophe Thielens notes that funding has been well managed this year compared to last winter: “We are working especially well with the offices of Pascal Smet and Celine Fremault. The family centre addresses a long-term need. Its funding is not completely permanent, but this is under discussion.”
As the winter measures come to an end we lose 750 beds, leaving only a total of 260 places divided between the family centre and the Petit Rempart emergency reception centre. An additional 48 places are made available by the NPO Ariane (for women on their own or with children) and another 48 places for men at the Pierre d’angle centre. “The winter measures give us the opportunity to touch a section of the population and put social mechanisms in place to help them,” says Christophe Thielens. “But we do not have enough emergency beds to offer. We reckon there are approximately at least 250 people who are particularly vulnerable, and we have only 100 beds to offer. Priority is given to the most in need. Women are victims of more aggressions, especially sexually. Our policy of never turning down a woman on her own is in danger, because numbers have increased.” Each night this winter we were able to find beds for 120 women without children.