Belgium/Walloon Brabant: a first count of the homeless before the establishment of several shelters
This is a first in Walloon Brabant! In partnership with the Centre d'Action Laïque, the King Baudouin Foundation, the CPAS and universities (including UCLouvain), the Relais social intercommunal du Brabant wallon is going to count the number of homeless and "badly housed" people.
This "census" will be carried out in three phases. The first stage will be carried out with the PCSWs of the first 9 municipalities participating in the project. This includes the municipalities of Wavre, Ottignies Louvain-la-Neuve, Nivelles, Jodoigne, Tubize, Rebecq, Grez-Doiceau, Chaumont-Gistoux and Walhain. The first results will be unveiled by the King Baudouin Foundation in mid-March 2023.
"The objective is to establish a kind of photograph, at a given moment, on a defined territory of the situation of homelessness and what we call homelessness," explains Catherine Vande Vyvre, in charge of the project within the Relais social."The method used will be data collection through questionnaires. In order to have the broadest possible view of the situation, we call on a range of private and public partners. These partners are active in a wide variety of sectors. They range from mental health to the different sectors of assistance to the homeless, including youth, shelters and OCMWs. It is a wide range of partners who know their respective publics and situations well. These partners will complete the questionnaires on the basis of different criteria: housing situation, gender, health status, possible addictions,...". Phases two and three of the enumeration will be organized a little later. The aim is to objectify the situation on the whole provincial territory, both in terms of the number of homeless people, and in terms of the places frequented or the particular expectations to be identified, particularly in terms of mental health.
An inter-municipal social relay
As the province of Walloon Brabant does not have any large cities on its territory, it has for a long time remained, along with the province of Luxembourg, below the minimum population threshold (50,000 inhabitants) that would allow it to obtain regional subsidies for the creation of an urban social relay. As a reminder, this type of association allows the coordination of actors in the field who fight against extreme poverty and homelessness, in particular. After years of preparation, and in the wake of the south of the country, a non-profit organization defined as an intermunicipal social relay was finally created at the end of last year, with local and provincial support.
Given the real precariousness of many citizens in this province, which is said to be well-to-do, the Relais social intercommunal du Brabant wallon obtained a first Walloon subsidy of 100,000 euros. No less than 45 partners (CPAS, associations, day care centers,...) supported the project. A second Walloon subsidy (108,000 euros) was granted at the same time to develop concrete projects to fight against precariousness and homelessness.
"Our number one priority is the accommodation of homeless people," explains Maëlle Dewaele, coordinator of the Relais. "Our main mission is to coordinate the existing actors and tools. It is important to act in a concerted way with the 45 partners currently involved. Because the situation in Walloon Brabant is different from that in provinces with large cities, we are advocating a hybrid model. We are not going to develop a large shelter for the homeless (like in Brussels). The province is vast. It is necessary to avoid long distances for people in precarious situations".
The logic is therefore to be able to offer a certain proximity of services. "We are working on the creation or adaptation of a few sites (5 or 6) to serve the entire territory in a coordinated manner.This hybrid model must respond to the needs of emergency shelter, but must also be different from the night shelter of the big cities. We also want to offer homeless and poorly housed people a pathway to social reintegration through housing. This is the Housing First model (first you find a roof over your head before you rebuild). As of Monday, a "Housing Sensor" will be responsible for finding landlords willing to participate in the project. The realization of the first projects will be in a few months. In the meantime, our team will grow to 9 people. The recruitments are in progress. Things are moving forward. And other projects will follow the housing component, such as the mental health component, for example.