Between 2008 and 2016, the number of homeless people doubled from about 2,000 to nearly 4,000. As in most big European cities, the number of homeless people in Brussels continues to rise. Our organization regrets the lack of ambition of politicians to fight against this phenomenon. Discover its white card!
Convergence of points of view of the actors in the field
The homeless sector in Brussels has entered a dynamic phase of practical and political mobilization over the past two years. Increased activities on the street, search for housing, rehousing programs, Housing First programs, increased collaboration on the ground, questioning of politicians: a beautiful mobilization of all the associations and institutions, with the end of homelessness in Brussels in sight.
Because this is the new deal now: the end of homelessness is possible in Brussels, the whole sector - a large majority anyway - is convinced of it. Everyone talks about it, everyone sees it as an objective, everyone dreams of the moment when the main work will consist of accompanying the most fragile people in a housing solution that suits them and allowing them to live a fulfilling life.
A situation that continues to worsen
The only downside is that the numbers are not good and are not moving in the right direction. Indeed, official censuses show that between 2008 and 2016 the number of homeless people has doubled, from about 2,000 to nearly 4,000. As in most major European cities, the number of homeless people in Brussels continues to rise. The work of organizations on the field seems to have no effect on this phenomenon.
The lack of ambition of politicians
The major obstacle to any improvement in this situation is that the public authorities and politicians as a whole have not kept up with the change in vision of the sector: the end of homelessness is still not an enunciable political objective and is not part of the plans for the future legislature. It would be an impossible chimera, a waste of time.
As a result of this vision, despite the Region's substantial investment in Housing First programs, as in the other two regions of the country, resources remain concentrated mainly on emergency shelter, especially in winter, whereas much more long-term investment is needed: social housing, housing support, prevention. These are investments that are well known and recognized, for example in countries where homelessness has decreased significantly, such as Finland, as being the pillars of a policy to end homelessness.
Even more, the vision of ending homelessness is not yet sufficiently shared among the general public, who would like to be able to believe it but still think it is unrealistic, or unaffordable.
A change of vision or nothing
We will not be able to end homelessness alone: not one organization, not even all the organizations in this sector together, even if their means are considerably increased. What the associations have proven, however, is that it is possible to get any homeless person permanently off the street. What is missing now is the shift of the whole society into this more global vision that the end of homelessness is possible, that we can, in a sustainable way, organize a city where everyone can find a housing adapted to his condition.
- Dr. Pierre Ryckmans Co-coordinator of Street nurses
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