'Hidden' homelessness: 34% stay with family and friends

'Hidden' homelessness: 34% stay with family and friends
Photo of an action demanding better policies for people without shelter in Brussels. May, 2019. Credit: Belga / Ophelie Delarouzee

The unhoused population is larger than people who are living in the street, up to 34% of adults without housing are people forced to stay with family and friends, shows a new survey by the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF), published on Friday. 

KBF describes it as “hidden” homelessness, saying that the unhoused people that reside in the public space are just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of housing access in Belgium.

The survey identified 7.912 people without permanent housing, living in different Belgian regions in October 2022. 27% of these people are children accompanied by their parents.  

Approximately 30-35% of all people counted are women. "They mainly spend the night in homeless shelters, with family or friends. They are therefore de facto less visible. They often experience shorter periods of homelessness than men. Their unstable housing situation is most often due to domestic violence or relationship problems.” explains KBF. 

The study focused on the Walloon Brabant, Tournai, the German-speaking Community and in Flanders, West Flanders and the district of Bruges.

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“Homelessness and houselessness are not only a problem of big cities. In smaller cities too, people are in these situations, although to a lesser extent (between 0.5 and 1 person per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to 6 persons per 1,000 inhabitants in large towns),” says the survey.

In 2020, Bruss’help identified 5,313 people without appropriate shelter living in Brussels, a number that is more than triple compared to 2008.

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