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Brussels deterrent against homeless is illegal, region says

One of the pavilions with screens installed. © Google Street View

Three plexiglass screen installed on the openings of the pavilion standing on the Porte d’Anderlecht in Brussels are an illegal addition, and must be removed, the regional government has ordered.

The Anderlecht gate, like others that dot the inner ring road, was once the boundary of the city, and the two pavilions were installed to tax the foodstuffs coming into and leaving the city.

The buildings that stand there now, on either side of the central reservation, were built in 1835-1836 in a Tuscan neoclassical style designed by architect Auguste Payen, who also designed the pavilions at the Porte de Ninove and Porte de Namur, the latter of which now stand at the entrance of the Bois de la Cambre.

The buildings, which now house the entrance to the Sewer Museum, are listed, and there lies the basis of the objection of the Brussels region to the changes made by the city.

In 2019, three plexiglass screens were installed between the four pillars that form the entrance to each pavilion. The aim was to deter homeless people from sleeping in the interior of the entrance.

The area, at the beginning of the Chaussée de Mons, is a gathering place for the homeless, among them a number of Roma families who took up occupancy inside the entrance.

The screens are just the latest attempt by Brussels City to keep away those sleeping rough. In 2017, a spray system was set up at the entrance, ostensibly to water the plants. Objections by associations working with the homeless led the city to remove the sprays.

The current set-up was awarded an ironic Pic D’Or by the charity Fondation Abbé Pierre, an award given for terrible ideas to deter the homeless.

The reaction of the region, and heritage minister Pascal Smet (one.brussel) is principally legal.

Let me be clear,” he told the RTBF. “The installation is illegal, on a classified property. Contact has therefore been made in order to remedy the situation.”

As far as dealing with the problem of people sleeping rough, he was clear.

This is not a good solution. We will not authorise this installation and we will request its withdrawal after the planning permission process is complete,” he said. The procedure takes place with the region, so the outcome seems clear.

No one should have to live on the street. That is a starting position and a principle,” he said.