Date : 31 august 2023 

Homeless and undocumented people have been in the spotlight for the past few days.

On the one hand, the Gare du Midi is now the scene of security actions, the first of which was led by Minister of the Interior Vanderlinden (CD&V) last Saturday, and a second action organised by the SNCB and the Federal Railway Police took place yesterday. The aim is to put an end to the persistent problems at the station, in order to ensure the safety of passengers and staff by, among other things, getting rid of homeless people.

On the other, Nicole de Moor (CD&V), Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, has decided to temporarily suspend the reception of men within the Fedasil network. This decision will create a new reception crisis, and will increase the number of people sleeping rough.

The problem of the growing number of homeless people, and the lack of affordable rehousing solutions, has long been pointed out by the voluntary sector.

A situation known to the voluntary sector

Bruss'help's count report for 2022 shows that there will be 7,134 homeless and inadequately housed people, with 809 living in public spaces. These figures are alarming, and the increase is clear: the homeless population has risen by 18.9% since 2020.

These figures, although worrying, did not cause a stir when they were released, because the phenomenon of homelessness no longer moves anyone, and political decision-makers prefer to talk about a "crisis", resort to "band-aid" solutions, and even take inhumane measures, as the "clean-up" operations at the Gare du Midi illustrate.

This catastrophic situation is a political choice!

Contrary to what current events may lead us to believe, this crisis in homelessness and affordable housing is not a new phenomenon. If anything, the current situation should be described as a slippery slope that is getting worse, and the public authorities are not doing enough about it. Since 2008, Brussels has had relatively reliable figures on the state of homelessness, which should have enabled policy-makers to take targeted and proportionate action. However, we can only conclude that this has not been the case, and without demand from the sector, there is little prospect of change. The opposite is likely to happen, when we are on the brink of a new crisis in reception!

No end to homelessness without sustainable (re)housing and prevention policies!

The current situation is not only intolerable for homeless people, it is also a tremendous waste of human and financial resources on the part of voluntary organisations. We need to remind politicians at regional level that it is their duty to put in place structural measures for sustainable rehousing and targeted prevention actions. At the same time, we are constantly calling on the Federal Government to fulfil its reception obligations. However, in recent days, we have heard nothing but talk of repressive action and security programmes: actions that hide the misery but do not respond to it.

To bring about lasting change, it's time for politicians to shoulder their responsibilities and adopt structural measures to put an end to homelessness.
Firstly, homeless people need to be rehoused quickly and sustainably. There are a number of ways of doing this, including speeding up the creation of social housing, introducing a quota of social housing for homeless people, regulating private rents, and so on.

In addition, homeless people must be given enhanced, multidisciplinary support to facilitate their return to housing.

Secondly, no one should be left on the street, which also means providing adequate care for asylum seekers, as well as specific solutions for undocumented migrants.

Enfin, il faut éviter que de nouvelles personnes précarisées ne tombent à la rue, grâce à la mise en place de mesures de prévention adaptées et ciblées, telles que la mise en place d’un système de conventionnement avec l’ensemble des agences immobilières sociales (AIS) en faveur des publics les plus précaires, et ainsi que des mesures pour éviter les expulsions de logement.

Indignons-nous ! Stop à la gestion à la petite semaine, nous voulons une véritable politique structurelle de fin du sans-abrisme à Bruxelles. Agissons dès maintenant, pour mettre fin à l’ensemble du sans-abrisme !

Carte blanche signed by

  • AMA - Federation of shelters and services for the homeless
  • RBDH - Rassemblement Bruxellois pour le Droit à l'Habitat (Brussels rally for the right to housing)
  • Syndicat des immenses
  • DoucheFLUX
  • Fédération Bico
  • Street nurses

The end of homelessness is a political choice !