Destroying life on the streets for health
Yet 800 shelters short in Brussels this winter
Now that the curfew in Brussels has been extended to 13 December and temperatures are falling, Doctors of the World is seriously concerned about the health of the homeless and the inadequate shelter provided by the policy.
De Wereld Morgen Tuesday 24 November 2020 14:22
COVID-19 has a serious impact on the living conditions and health of the homeless. They have to fight for a place in the overcrowded shelters, they no longer have access to the food surpluses of the catering industry and most day centres have closed their doors.
During the first COVID-19 wave, Doctors of the World opened a day-care centre in the Jacques Brel youth hostel. In this centre, 140 people came every day to take a shower, eat something, rest for a while and recharge their phones. But the centre closed at the end of July.
Structural lack of continuous reception
"Today, most homeless people are put out on the streets every morning. At this stage of the health crisis, this is not justified and shelters should remain open 24/7. In addition, there is a structural lack of reception capacity, which should be increased by at least 800. It is crucial that all homeless people are accommodated in order to reduce the spread of the virus, to detect infections quickly and to take the necessary measures with regard to follow-up, quarantine and contact tracing", says Michel Genet, general director of Dokters van de Wereld Belgium.
According to Bruss'Help, there is currently (29 October 2020) room for 2,901 people in the reception centres, while according to the latest population census in 2018, more than 4,000 people were estimated to be homeless in Brussels. This figure may be much higher since the epidemic.*
Lack of shelter leads to human tragedies among the homeless
"Aggression, a sense of exclusion, despair, mental problems, drug use and abuse, suicide attempts ... The list of problems our homeless that patients signal due to the lack of safe shelter is long. We observe this every day during consultations at our care centre or on the medibus, for example. We can safely speak of a human tragedy among the homeless", says Salomé Leibner, COZO social assistant.
"How do you take care of your wounds if you live on the street and have no resources? How should you follow the instructions after surgery? If you have an addiction or a psychiatric disorder that is not followed, how should you care for yourself? Do you rest if you have to wander in the street during the day and can barely close one eye at night? With the venue of COVID-19, the feelings of anxiety have exacerbated.
In this context of the health crisis, Dokters van de Wereld would like to stress once again: "Everyone has the right to shelter and health care, including migrants, homeless people, sex workers, drug users, men or women, all of them", concludes Michel Genet.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)