That morning, Mr. A. opens the gate of the site where his modular home is located. We called him to announce our unexpected arrival and he quickly got ready to receive us with a broad smile. For me it’s a reunion after he moved into his module a few months ago. His salt and pepper hair is carefully brushed, his face tanned and friendly. He warmly invites us to come in and drink a cool coke.
A few months ago, all this still seemed unthinkable, even though the essence of our work is to come up with the impossible to let our patients recover step by step.
After receiving a notification, we met Mr. A., barely two years ago, along a scorching Brussels boulevard. We found him amidst a huge number of bags and garbage, always in the same spot, sitting cross-legged. Our conversations were friendly, but he seemed suspicious. He rejected whatever we proposed, even a simple coffee.
Gradually, during our meetings, he entrusted us with bits and pieces about his past: the traumatic expulsion from his home, his longing for nature and the sea, his different jobs in Brussels.
He seemed to trust us more but any concrete proposal to help him getting a home and give him medical-social support bounced off a mysterious and tired smile: “Not today, we’ll discuss this later.” For many months, Mr. A. remained motionless among his numerous bags; we never saw him stand up.
At the beginning of winter, a break occurred. Our conversations became shorter and the weak link we had constructed over six months, broke down, even though he kept giving us that melancholic smile. In the end we were told that he was going to be driven from his spot because of public works. We then managed, in cooperation with Samusocial, to accommodate him as a matter of urgency in one of their centers.
We then feared that, for someone so attached to his surroundings, this expulsion would be an enormous shock and that he would withdraw even more into himself. But after being stuck for those two long years on the street, he underwent the change as a turning point. Our team grasped that moment to offer him a home once more.
In spite of sluggish administrative procedures and the many appointments he was obliged to attend, Mr. A. missed none of them, although we gathered some anguish from his silences.
During spring, Mr. A. moved into his modular home. We know that he has still a long road ahead of him to overcome his various ordeals. But he can now look to the future with more confidence.
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(*) We do our utmost to respect the privacy of our patients and our professional secrecy. However, we want to testify to how they must survive and how we are working together to reintegrate them. As a result, the names of places and people are deliberately omitted or changed and real-life situations are placed in a different context. There is no direct link between the photos and the stories above.