Researchers from various Belgian institutions have developed a new method for mapping homelessness, the Scientific Policy Administration announced on Wednesday in a press release. Dubbed MEHOBEL, French acronym for “Measuring Homelessness in Belgium”, the strategy has been tested in a number of rural municipalities, where it found that one in 13 persons dependent on Public Social Service Centres (CPAS) was homeless.
The institutions participating in the development of the strategy were : the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) through its Centre for Research for Care and Consultancy (LUCAS) and Research Institute for Work and Society (HIVA); the University of Liège’s Centre for Opinion Research; and the Strada.
The MEHOBEL strategy defines homelessness based on the European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Exclusion (ETHOS), which differentiates between homelessness, absence of housing, precarious housing and inadequate housing. It makes a distinction between six categories of housing deprivation.
The researchers stress that homelessness is not confined to cities. In a study on six supplementary rural CPAS, they found that one in every 13 CPAS beneficiaries had no housing or shelter. More than half of these beneficiaries were disguised homeless persons. That means that they did not sleep in the street or in specific shelters for homeless people, but resided temporarily with relatives or friends, or lived in unconventional places such as garages, cars or garden sheds.
The researchers propose a Belgian strategy for measurement and follow-up, including the organization of one-off, half-yearly or quarterly censuses of all categories of homeless persons at the national level.
They also recommended the updating of annual statistics on: persons with reference addresses; persons with housing difficulties; households spending more than 40% of their income on housing; legal evictions; and people on waiting lists for social housing.