100 people sleep on cold floor in Tour & Taxis to experience homelessness
About 100 Brussels residents slept on a cold floor in a large open room in Tour & Taxis in order to better understand the struggles of homeless people.
The initiative comes from the non-profit organisation Infirmiers de Rue, which aimed to raise awareness about homelesness ahead of winter, which is when the issue usually comes to the forefront in the Belgian capital.
Last year, the number of homeless people in Brussels was so great that train stations had to be converted into temporary overnight shelters to keep people from freezing to death as all traditional shelters were at capacity.
Infirmiers de Rue held the "Belgium Sleep Out" over the weekend, inviting people to learn more about the issue of homelessness and raise funds to help the organisation in its mission to provide better outcomes for homeless people, not only in terms of health and hygiene but also in the building of a medical and social network on which the patient can fall back and find support.
“Anyone who has ever been to a city is bound to come across homeless people,” the organisation said. “Depending on whether those encounters are positive or negative, they shape our judgments about homeless people. But who is really behind the term ‘homeless’? What does it mean to ‘live on the streets’? What are the needs, desires, dreams of homeless people?”
The evening at Tour & Taxis included a theatre performance and a question and answer session, along with videos, games and music all designed to increase awareness and educate people on the issue of homlessness in Belgium, plus potential solutions.
At the end of the presentations, participants who brought sleeping bags were invited to spend the night sleeping on the cold stone floors.
“Despite the efforts of aid organisations on the ground, the number of homeless people in Belgium continues to rise,” the organisation said. "More than ever, we need a coherent national strategy to prevent and combat homelessness."
Participants in Belgium Sleep Out were invited to get sponsored by friends, family or colleagues and therefore raise money for the organisation through their participation.
“I chose to come here because I am worried about the impoverishment and the increase in the number of people sleeping rough in Brussels,” one participant told Bruzz. “I want to stay informed on the subject.”
Another 81-year-old participant said they slept on the cold, hard floor because they were concerned about the potential for elderly people to become homeless.
“It's important to see how the elderly are going to be affected, apart from those who are already affected,” that participant told Bruzz. "I am afraid that some of them will fall into this situation at the end of their lives."