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Brussels’ first ‘users room’ for safe drug consumption to open soon
Brussels’ first “users room” – a space intended for drug users to consume drugs safely with access to information on quitting – will finally open soon.
Plans for the risk-reduction user space were first announced in July 2021 with an intended opening of December that year, but the opening was repeatedly postponed, Bruzz reports.
Finally, all formalities are in order. “As soon as the last approval is in, we will open immediately,” said Bruno Valkeneers, spokesperson for asbl/vzw Transit.
The non-profit organisation is one of the institutions involved in the new risk-reduction user space, which will open on Rue de Woeringen in the city centre under the name ‘Gate’.
Gate’s opening is already four months behind schedule, but Simon Vandamme, spokesperson for health minister Alain Maron (Ecolo), says it will be operational in “a matter of days," as "the final texts have been approved and the documents will be signed by the ministers concerned”.
Gate will not only offer a safe place for drug users to consume drugs, but will also provide help to those looking to quit.
“The name was chosen deliberately. It has to be a symbol. Through this gate, people who find themselves in a vulnerable situation can take the step towards something better,” said Valkeneers.
Full medical care offered to drug users
“People living on the street often have no identity card, no social security and therefore no access to healthcare. Health is paramount at Gate, and so we want to offer everyone full medical care.”
User spaces are not a solution to the illegal market where drugs are traded, according to Valkeneers. “But what should we do? Just stand by and watch or do something pragmatic to provide a solution to the fight against addiction?,” he says.
Valkeneers pointed to evaluations of user spaces around the world, which he says prove they work, both in terms of improving health outcomes and reducing petty crime.
“If drug users do not have a safe space, they use on the street, which creates a feeling of insecurity and unsafety,” said Valkeneers.
“In a users' space, healthcare providers, doctors and social workers are available. We also inform users about the drugs themselves. That can change the relationship with drugs and will translate into change on the street.”
Brussels is the second Belgian city after Liège to create such a space for drug users. There exist around 100 similar facilities across Europe.
Photo: Transit asbl/vzw