Brussels to convert former police headquarters into homeless shelter

Brussels to convert former police headquarters into homeless shelter
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A former police headquarters building in Brussels will become a housing centre for homeless people and families, regional officials announced.

Works are set to begin in February of 2021 on the building located on Rue Jan Blockx in the northern municipality of Schaerbeek, which is currently used by a non-profit offering integration services for undocumented residents in Brussels.

A budget of some €3.4 million will be unblocked to transform the former police station into a 29-bedroom housing and integration centre capable of accommodating a total of 84 people.

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Regional leaders in Brussels said that the site will also be outfitted by a large dining area, a library, several sanitary facilities, a nursery and a couple of multi-purpose rooms, with the aim of hosting people in the "best possible conditions."

In a statement, the region said that the project was in line with its goal to "provide ever more concrete and dignified housing solutions for the most fragile publics living in its territory."

"It is essential that all the citizens in our region are welcomed with dignity. (...) This building will be, above all, a place of tranquillity," Rudi Vervoort, minister-president of the Brussels-Capital Region, said.

"Living in the street is difficult. In this new building, people will be able to rest —even if it is for a short moment— while the competent services work for their social reintegration."

But the managing organiser of the non-profit, named La Maison des Migrants, said that the arrival of the regional centre would mean that they would have to vacate the site — with no clear idea of where to move their services, as well as where to house the dozen undocumented people who found shelter in the building.

"Until now, we have received no concrete propositions or solutions," Mohamed Boumediene, coordinator of the non-profit, said in a phone interview.

"But the problem goes far beyond that — far beyond the question of relocating our activities or finding a new building— it is about the lack of opportunities or of a broader policy regarding questions of migrant integration and regularisation."

"We thought that with the current Vivaldi government, we would have more support — but all of the MPs and ministers who once supported our cause are now nowhere to be found," he added, referring to the nickname of the 7-party coalition heading the federal government, noting that a clear stance on immigration was crucial to steer and fund regional migratory policies.

A spokesperson for Vervoort did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but said that a "number of concrete solutions" were being studied to temporarily relocate the non-profit.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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