Mr D is seventy. He has lived in Belgium since the sixties where he got several degrees and worked in different sectors - but always in the black.

In fact, he has no papers.

© P-Y Jortay

A long time ago, health problems made him lose his home. Not being able to claim any rights and being alone, he’s been sleeping at Samusocial ever since.

His situation is nothing less than catastrophic and he is very fragile. After a serious illness and subsequent heavy therapy, he should have a home to get back on his feet. But without papers his situation seems hopeless. Health-wise, he’s in very bad shape, and morally he’s down. Which makes him grab the bottle.

To cheer him up a bit, we asked him what he’d like to do for his birthday. He answered that he dreamt of eating mussels. It was a long time since he had some. We therefore took him out and granted his wish. During that meal he brightened up, and in a small circle he also dared to come out of his shell and tell us about what life had had in store for him. A “cool” moment for all of us, which also tightened our bond.

Afterwards he said goodbye, telling us he had to return to “work” - a euphemistic way of saying that he went begging again.

His chances of improvement are small, but we’ll remain by his side trying to cope with administrative challenges to get papers, an income and a home, allowing him, finally, to find peace and a possibility to look after himself.

Without you, there's no us

(*) We make every effort to respect the privacy of our patients and our professional secrecy. Nevertheless, we want to bear witness to how they have to survive and how we work together to reintegrate them. Therefore, the names of places and people are deliberately omitted or changed and real-life situations are placed in another context. There is no direct link between the photos and the stories above.

© P-Y Jortay - Infirmiers de rue 2020