After initially promising that Brussels’ three largest train stations would remain open around the clock to shelter homeless people from the freezing temperatures, SNCB says that now only one of them will be.
The Brussels Midi station will stay open at night in order to accommodate homeless people trying to escape the cold who cannot find space in crowded shelters in the city.
Brussels Central, Brussels North, and Brussels Midi train stations were all promised to be kept open 24 hours a day by Minister Alain Maron on Twitter.
While Maron has not tweeted to announce the walk-back of this promise, a reply to a separate, more recent tweet of his about low emission zones challenged the Minister regarding cold-related deaths among the homeless.
Ce serait quand même mieux d’être en action vers une société moins avide plus juste et plus solidaire. Pourquoi laisser tant de sans abris dehors? N’y-a-t-il pas assez de places dans des hôtels vides ou d’espace vide dans le palais des expositions? Combien de décès liés au froid?
It would be better to take action towards a less greedy, fairer and more united society. Why leave so many homeless outside? Are there not enough places in empty hotels or empty space in the exhibition center? How many cold-related deaths?
Last night, all three stations did remain open to the homeless. But tonight, only Brussels Midi will allow the homeless to take shelter there.
Yesterday, Maron said that the SNCB was evaluating the possibility of extending the measure for future nights with station managers, but it appears that the decision was made to not do so for all stations.
“Our agents can contact organisations to take care of the people in question,” an SNCB spokesman explained to BX1. “If that’s not possible, these people can be sent to one of the five major stations in the country.”
Apart from Brussels Midi, the stations in Belgium that will remain open during the night are Antwerp Central, Gand-Saint-Pierre (Ghent), Liège-Guillemins and Charleroi.
Brussels has the largest homeless population in the country, and it has only continued to rise over the past few years.
The temperature in Belgium is expected to drop to -12 degrees Celsius tonight, with the potential for more snow, making conditions even more dangerous for one of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
The city’s 3,120 available beds for the homeless are almost completely occupied, said François Bertrand. Bertrand is the director of Bruss’Help, an organization that provides aid to homeless people in the region. Their website appears to have crashed due to overwhelming traffic this morning.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that Brussels Central station remained open.