As a member of the European Union, Belgium has the privilege of having an advanced economy as well as relatively low unemployment and poverty rates. However, being a developed nation does not make a country immune to the hardships of homelessness. Here are four facts about homelessness in Belgium.
4 Facts About Homelessness in Belgium
- The biggest homeless population is in Brussels. Geographically, Belgium is made up of primarily rural areas, but the vast majority of the country’s population lives in an urban setting. The country’s capital, Brussels, is the largest city in Belgium and is the host to the majority of the homeless population. The most evident instances of homelessness are people living directly on the street, but many of those affected live in shelters or temporary housing, such as a hotel, and tend to be more invisible to the public.
- Homelessness is on the rise. The Homeless World Cup Organization provided a concerning update regarding homelessness in Belgium: “From one count in November 2016, there were 3,386 people experiencing homelessness in Brussels. This number is a 96% increase since 2008.” Just two years later in 2018, a homeless relief organization in Belgium called La Strada counted a total of 4,187 people living without secure or traditional housing.
- Many of those on the streets are migrants. Another contributing factor to the density of homeless in Brussels is migration. Europe as a whole has seen an increase in the migration of undocumented people. Due to their citizenship status, they often do not qualify for government assistance or other benefits, leaving them to fend for themselves. Many migrants living in a place called Maximilian Park have been pushed out by a police initiative and have relocated to the larger cities.
- There are not enough resources to address current conditions. Due to the harsh European winters, many homeless individuals living completely without protection from the elements need to seek shelter in the colder months to survive. However, many cities’ homeless initiatives and charity organizations are overwhelmed by the sudden increase in need and struggle to produce enough resources and space to accommodate all of the homeless.
The facts about homelessness in Belgium are daunting, but there are solutions to the issue. Of note, organizations such as the Citizens’ Refugee Support and The Platform, who work in homeless outreach and placement are helping to provide beds to the most vulnerable homeless group: migrants. While they have not yet been able to provide shelter for everyone in need, they continue to push the Belgian government for additional funding, as well as help their residents find long term solutions.
– Samantha Decker