The city of Antwerp has a number of small flats available to be used by people who test positive for Covid-19 in the city but are unable to return to their homes.
The accommodation is separate from housing kept in reserve for occupants who are made homeless for other reasons, for example after a fire. These apartments will be used if the person is referred to the city by a doctor who judges they are unable to return home.
Cases might involve a person who lives together with someone who remains uninfected, in conditions where self-isolation is not possible.
But the city made it clear the flats are not of the highest comfort level.
“These are rooms with a bathroom, not all the facilities of a house,” said Michael Lescroart, spokesperson for Antwerp city councillor for housing, Fons Duchateau (N-VA).
The city declines to say how many such flats there are available. “But we are committed to having enough for those who need it,” said Lescroart.
The price depends on the patient’s ability to pay. So far nobody has come forward to apply for one of the flats.
The city also stressed that the flats are not intended for the homeless.
“They are taken care of by another service.”
Meanwhile the homeless will not be targetted by the curfew that came into force in Antwerp province last night, the city authorities said. The mobile teams that go out at night trying to convince the homeless to come into accommodation provided will still be allowed to work unhindered, while the police will deal “humanely” with homeless people who choose to stay outside.
“For homeless people, the police always call in assistance that can provide shelter,” said the office of mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA).
“There is still an extensive homeless operation. For those who refuse to come inside, we always intervene as humanely as possible, as long as people follow the basic rules and do not cause any further inconvenience.”
And a spokesperson for the councillor for social affairs, Tom Meeuws (SP.A), confirmed that the city’s priority is to get homeless people into shelters.
“Of course there are always those who are reluctant, but they were not the big problem with regard to gatherings or sources of infection during the first wave.”