The Belgian Minister for Urban Policy, Caroline Gennez, announced on Wednesday 18 January, in an interview with VRT News, the investment of 10 million in the Housing First model for the support of homeless people.
Housing First is an essential tool in the fight against homelessness because it allows the most vulnerable homeless people to be reintegrated into housing on a long-term basis - without any prerequisites. The minister's political decision, however commendable, is likely to have limited effects, as it strengthens support, but does not guarantee access to housing as such. Limited effects because governments in Belgium do not subsidise housing for the homeless, unlike the Finnish model on which the Minister bases her argument.
And yet, this is where the problem lies: the reintegration of this group is hampered by the lack of affordable housing, a lack that is becoming increasingly glaring in the context of the socio-economic crisis we are experiencing.
Investing in Housing First as a model is not enough. It is certainly not enough to achieve the goal of ending homelessness that Belgium set for itself by the end of 2030, when it signed the Lisbon Declaration. It is high time to diversify the solutions to get off the streets, otherwise the number of homeless people will continue to increase, despite the efforts made.
That is why, contrary to what Minister Gennez says, Street Nurses as an organization, advocates for the introduction of a quota of social housing reserved for homeless people.
This group represents the furthest thing from any form of housing. Homelessness is an emergency situation that Public Housing Companies have to respond to, even though nowadays it is almost considered normal.
Facilitating access to social housing by introducing a quota is not THE solution, but it must structurally be part of it if we want to respond to the urgency of the situation. Today, according to the 2020 census, there are more than five thousand people living on the streets or poorly housed in Brussels. What about tomorrow?
We must act now by putting in place structural measures. A percentage of social housing would make up for the lack of affordable housing for the most vulnerable people. It would strengthen their access to rights, particularly that of housing, which is enshrined in our Constitution. A right that today is far from being fulfilled ...