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Brussels adds more shelters for the homeless

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Brussels has approved additional shelters and meal centers for the homeless, Minister President Rudi Vervoort announced on Twitter today.

“It became imperative to increase the capacity to avoid a health and humanitarian tragedy,” says his office. “In the context of a cold snap, homeless people are particularly at risk.”

The places offering shelter include a Brussels hotel, and three meals a day per person are also being provided by supervising staff. Special care is being taken to ensure compliance with coronavirus measures.

We take this action to protect public health, but also to guarantee the minimum subsistence for people living in a precarious situation: accommodation and meals in the middle of a cold spell.

The number of available shelters had already been expanded by 247 places this past week and over the week, according to Bruzz.

Brussels has the highest homeless population in all of Belgium, and the existing beds in the city quickly filled up once temperatures dropped and people sought shelter from the snow and ice.

The capital has tried a number of initiatives to prevent the homeless from freezing, including arresting those who refused shelter. There was also a promise to keep the three largest train stations open 24h for an escape from the subzero temperatures, but that was walked back to just one station.

Shelters were so overwhelmed that some homeless decided to occupy empty public housing, even though the building’s condition was so poor that one employee of the complex said “the woodwork is so rotten that you could sink through the floor.”

Minister Alain Maron, who had first tweeted the promise to keep the train stations open and received some backlash on Twitter for walking it back, tweeted that thanks to the mobilisation of multiple social organisations, the Brussels Region was adding 131 temporary spaces for overnight use and 8 additional spaces that will serve as an escape from the cold.

Thanks to the mobilisation of all those involved in helping the homeless & the collaboration of the municipalities, the Brussels Region is further strengthening the system for welcoming the homeless in the context of the very cold weather. That’s 131 temporary night places in addition to the 247 mobilized since last weekend, and 8 spaces allowing people to be sheltered and warm.

Minister Maron said that between Sunday and Friday morning not a single reception request received through dispatching had to be refused, according to Bruzz.

“For humanitarian reasons and for the sake of human dignity, the Brussels region is temporarily opening additional shelters so that no one has to sleep outside. We do our utmost to combat this problem at all levels,” said Vervoort.

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times