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New shelter for homeless single men opens in Forest

09:50 02/02/2024

Aid organisation Samusocial has opened a new shelter for homeless single men in a former rest home in the Brussels neighbourhood of Forest.

“The additional places will enable us to better meet the ever-increasing demand,” the organisation said.

The new shelter offers 24/7 medium- and long-term shelter for a demographic that is generally last on the priority list, and brings the total capacity within the Samusocial network to 1,250 places.

“The layout of this building offers real added value to the quality of the reception we provide,” said centre manager Arnaud Brouwez.

“The fact that people can be accommodated in small rooms, each with its own bathroom, allows them to live together in peace. This is a first step for them to get away from the streets.”

Belgium has been dealing with a refugee crisis that has overwhelmed its reception capabilities, and while minors, women and families with children are given priority when it comes to shelter, single men have often been left to sleep on the streets.

“There are an ever-increasing number of isolated and homeless men, especially since the start of the reception crisis, the effects of which are particularly visible on the streets,” said Marie Suraud, head of operational deployment and emergency services at Samusocial.

With the onset of winter and recent freezing temperatures, aid organisations have been scrambling to provide for the homeless in Brussels.

Those being admitted to the new shelter in Forest are single men who have been identified as "extremely vulnerable". Some 10 additional places will be added to the shelter daily until capacity is reached at 150 places by mid-February.

The men entitled to shelter there include both homeless people with identity papers, undocumented migrants and those going through the asylum procedure.

The accommodation provides two- or three-bed rooms with private sanitary facilities and meals. Medical aid and social counselling are also available and a team of 34 multidisciplinary staff is on standby day and night.

Within three months, the reception centre will be open only to people seeking international protection – single men as well as families with children or unaccompanied foreign minors.

Management of the centre will continue to be provided by Samusocial on behalf of the federal agency Fedasil.

Fedasil has come under sharp criticism and international condemnation for its failure to fulfil Belgium’s obligation to provide all asylum seekers with food and shelter.

A law firm recently seized €400,000 from Belgian government bank guarantees in order to make provision for the penalty payments owed to thousands of unsheltered asylum seekers who have sued the state for this failure.

The State has objected to the seizure of funds and a timetable has been set by the courts, with oral arguments to take place in May, according to L'Écho.

The same firm has also carried out other seizures, including at the offices of prime minister Alexander De Croo and immigration minister Nicole de Moor, where furniture and appliances were seized.

“This is a battle that we have been supporting from the outset,” the president of the French-speaking Brussels Bar Association told L'Écho.

“The aim of the lawyers is to obtain the enforcement of final court decisions. It's a question of respect for the rule of law.”

Photo: Ine Gillis/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons