Radio 2

International development minister is rough sleeper for the night

Belgian international development minister Meryame Kitir (Flemish socialist) joined seventy people from Sint-Truiden (Limburg) spending a night out under the stars on Friday.  The sleep-out was an initiative of several organisations eager to publicise the plight of the homeless and provide support.

A lawn in front of a local church was the venue for the sleep-out. 

“Homelessness is a phenomenon in towns and cities across Flanders.  Many people in Sint-Truiden are not familiar with it because they never see any rough sleepers” says Egon Heeren of Enchanté.

A count conducted last year revealed 1,200 people living on the streets in Limburg including 110 in Sint-Truiden.  Homeless people face many obstacles preventing them from reintegrating into society. “It’s not only the cost of accommodation” says Dimitri.  He’s ended up on the streets on several occasions since 2015.  “I often need to go in search of people who can help me myself.  After five years I’m still not where I want to be”.

The search for support isn’t easy.

“Nine times out of ten landlords who hear your story or need to get a down payment from social services give up. After a while you get psychiatric problems, but psychiatric bodies say they are not there to provide accommodation for the homeless. Local wellbeing centres often don’t have the means to help either” says Dimitri.

Ms Kitir, who also doubles as minister for the big cities, listened to numerous accounts and promised to make use of the information at next week’s Madrid conference on homelessness.

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