You’re not alone, Mrs. L.
Mrs L. is almost 50 years old. She’s been living on the street for 20 years, got placed in institutions from a very early age and is a victim of the failing Belgian system. Street Nurses in Liège are worried about her and feel powerless in the face of her misery.
On that day, it seemed that he was with us
We knew her husband, Mr. N, very well. He was a bon vivant and quite outspoken. You could hardly miss him whenever he was around. He had bags of humor and inspired a lot of sympathy in people he met. His two passions were Johnny and dogs. He had survived innumerable ordeals so that people almost thought he was immortal. Even so, we had to let him go in the winter of 2021.
Coming together in mourning
Today I accompanied Mr. S. to his mother’s funeral.
A few days ago, a family member told us that his mother had died. We knew little about the contacts he still had with his family. He tends to tell us with a broad smile that everything is fine, that the contacts are in order and that, he too, is OK. But we know that he’s sometimes “too proud” to tell us that he’s going through a difficult period.
So now we’re trying just on the off chance
Today, I visited with my colleagues a patient in Liège. I travelled there by train and met them at the Guillemins station. I hardly know this town and even less the patients Street Nurses supports there.
We’re going to visit Mr. J in his home at a few minutes distance. We tried to inform him ahead of our visit but couldn’t get through. So now we’re trying just on the off chance.
Each way of living on the street is unique, but none is just.
I see all sorts of camping spots pop up in Liège. When I walked past these homeless people before, all sorts of questions went through my mind. I saw them move around, occupy spots here and there, but never to stay. A body in a garage entrance, the movements of someone breathing under a blanket, stuff piled up in a corner, a piece of cardboard under a porch…Clearly visible traces of poverty, but always of a temporary nature.
A day at the seaside!
Mr. T and Mr. X are two patients we support in their homes.
For several months, they have been members of the tenants’ council, organized by the “Affiliation” team. There they can meet other tenants in the Brussels Housing First project and together select activities in which they’d like to participate.
A big child
It was a cold and rainy day as one could expect towards the end of the year.
The whole morning, we had been on an inspection round, with under our arm a Xmas present which schoolchildren had prepared for you.
We were soaked and the gift’s packaging was a mess. But I’ll never forget your big smile when you saw us coming with the present. It was a smile I had never seen before on your face. I’d almost say: of a big child.
My grandmother once said to me: “What would you give to be like someone else?” …and I always refused to give anything because I don’t want to be like someone else.
So many people cared for you...
A, one of our street patients recently died in unclear circumstances. We started his follow-up more than three years ago but at that moment he had probably been living on the street for ten years or more already.
Under his lovely smile, his vague and ever repeated stories, and his constant refusal of help, we assumed the presence of hidden wounds, resulting from family circumstances and exile. We’ll probably never know.
To feel useful, that matters to me
One beautiful morning in August somebody suggests over a cup of coffee that I tell something about my life, the road I travelled. Who am I that someone asks me to talk about myself?
Wow, what a transformation!
When you entered our follow-up, Mr. N.*, we had to collect a maximum of data concerning you, in order to accompany you as well as possible. That's when I received an e-mail from a member of your network that took me aback. It was a rather discouraging message, saying that you had chosen to live on the street anyway and that you had always refused to live in housing. This is obviously not the first time I've heard this kind of thinking, but it's still surprising. So let's drop it?
The importance of a care partner
Mr. K. has been followed up by Street Nurses for almost 4 years. He lost his first home, which did not suit him as it was too isolated and made him loose his bearings. He could not cope with the situation and, unfortunately, landed, after a short time, back on the street. The street: that’s what he knew too well as he had lived there for dozens of years. Like most homeless people, he suffered from serious physical health and addiction problems.