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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A homeless man in Brussels thinking of where his next meal will be coming from

A homeless man in Brussels thinking of where his next meal will be coming from

"The homeless in Brussels did not die of cold"

Many view homeless people as failures in the society but the causes of homelessness varies from the lack of employment to personal issues such as drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse etc. Below is an article published by Ann Van den Broek, which appeared in the Belgian newspaper 'De Morgen.' in Dutch.

Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, is famous as a meeting place for world leaders, holding summits and conferences but not everything that glitters is gold. Last year, 72 homeless people died in Brussels. 

This new figure exceeds that of 2015, which registered 55. The actual cause of death is not known but according to 'Collective Road Death,' it is obvious that they died due to lack of affordable housing in the capital. 

'Collective Street Dead' now suggests it is the time for politicians in Brussels to take responsibility after the death of the 72 homeless people in 2016. Forty of the deceased who died last year lived on the street at the time of their deaths.

Seventeen of those that lost their lives were found lifeless in a public place. The others died in the hospital. Out of the 72 that died, half of them cause of death was unknown. 

"But the assumption that people without a roof over their heads will be killed by exposure to harsh weather is completely wrong," says Bert De Bock from the 'Collective Street Killing' that has been active since 2005 in Brussels.  "It is so, not only of the cold. People die in Brussels, not by the freezing cold. We count in each season as many deaths that say enough."

Attacks Zaventem

Why the homeless or succumb to? It is often a combination of factors that are fatal, said De Bock. Stress, poor sleep, and untreated illnesses. Out of the 37 homeless people whose cause of death is known, nine died of cancer. Seven of them were affected by the heart, three committed suicide, and two deceased of the consequences of aggression.

"What's also been neglected, is the consequences of the attacks in Zaventem," said Bock. "A homeless was of immediate life, but there are many more victims. You should know that the airport was a popular stopover."

One of the homeless who was severely wounded and was even photographed in the hospital with the king and queen, but then again ended up on the streets. And despite the insurance, he has obviously seen nothing. " 

Add to that all, due to strict measures the homeless people now can no longer go much to the airport, since March 22. As a result losing the roof covering their heads. The impact can't be underestimated, says Bock. "We have not even mentioned the trauma that follows a terrorist attack when you are homeless."

It is difficult to confirm the number of death because the official data on the number of homeless are not there. La Strada organizes support center for homeless care in Brussels for a census every two years. The most recent figures date from 2014 when there were 2,600 homeless people in Brussels, of which 412 were living on the streets. 

An increase of a third and a quarter compared to 2010. New figures based on a census in November 2016 and in March 2017, are not expected until late May. But both the social service 'Samusocial' as the collective Street Dead, in practice experienced an increase in recent years, they say.

De Bock's assumption is that the fugitive crisis also will be related to the increase in the deaths. 86 percent of the deceased are Europeans. In concrete figures: of the 72 deaths, thirty were Belgian nationals, twenty were from Poland, three Romanians, two Frenchmen and two Lithuanians. Six victims were from Morocco, one from Algeria and one from Nigeria.

"The European Union is mainly focused on work and the economy. You can see it very clearly in the number of Polish victims," says Bock. "Many of them were fifteen, twenty years in our country, from the time that freedom of movement was in Poland. 

The 'Collective Road Death' hopes that the figures will awaken Brussels politics. "A major cause is clearly the institutional violence. The price for a property in Brussels has increased exponentially. Even for a little studio with minimal amenities, you pay monthly rent at least 500 euros. 

With a Social Welfare payment of 860 euros, you can't go far. Before one signs a housing contract the renter demands a payslip, you can't provide one if you are unemployed. Moreover, the houses are not given to those who don't look presentable.

Social housing is also not an option, says Bock. "The waiting list is at least five years. Then it is not surprising that many homeless people are completely distraught. What is needed in Brussels are structural responses to structural problems but there are not. 

The only thing the government will bring up is seasonal solutions. Such a winter shelter is, of course, a good initiative and it soothes fix many consciences, but fundamentally nothing dissolves."

You might also be interested to read: My Life As A Homeless Immigrant in Rome before Pantenella.

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