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More beds for the homeless in Brussels

Published on 30/11/2005

30 November 2005

BRUSSELS — Amid a worrying lack of emergency shelter places for the homeless in Brussels, an extra 90 beds will be found this winter, on top of the initially planned 85.

Besides the 900 beds for regular shelter an extra 180 beds for emergency shelter were set up last year. That number was to be expanded to 265 this year.

“But that proved to be insufficient,” Brussels government Transport and Public Works Minister Pascal Smet said.

A decision was thus made on Tuesday to boost the increased number of extra beds with an additional 90, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported on Wednesday.

The beds will be found at the homeless shelter in Schaarbeek, Brussels city centre and in Evere.

Homeless people can travel with a free MIVB-STIB ticket to the homeless shelters. For the homeless shelter in Evere, there is also a free bus available between 10pm and 2am.

The additional emergency shelter ends a recent ping-pong game in Brussels in recent days about who is responsible for the shelter of the homeless.

Brussels announced last week it was launching a ‘winter plan’, but that came too late to save the lives of two homeless people who froze to death over the weekend.

A third homeless person has since died and the chief of the Brussels social security office OCMW, Yvan Mayeur, pointed an accusing figure at the Brussels regional government.

However, Minister Smet responded to end the accusation match, confirming that social security legislation states that the OCMW is responsible for ensuring homeless people are given shelter.

Smet is also involved with the municipal society commission, which finances measures initiated by the city of Brussels. The Flemish and Wallonian communities also fund projects.

In total, there is a budget of EUR 19 million for homeless shelters.

There is sufficient funding then, the only problem is the practical implementation of shelter plans. However, it is hoped that a new referral centre will solve the problems.

The referral centre will also confirm the number of homeless people in Brussels, with current estimates ranging from 1,000 to 4,000.

Meanwhile, Smet continues to insist that it should be possible to force homeless people to spend the night at a shelter. He is not opposed to calling in police.

“Naturally there is the right to self-determination, but the right to freeze to death does not exist. Society cannot tolerate that,” he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news