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'How many homeless people do we have?' asks Ghent city council
The city of Ghent has launched a plan to document every member of its homeless population. The city wants to get an idea of how many homeless people live there and how they found themselves on the street.
The ultimate goal is to use the information gathered to set policy and reduce the number of people with no permanent address. The plan is part of the Roof project, which has also been launched in eight other European cities – including Liège – and is supported by the King Boudewijn Foundation.
“In order to change something, we first have to know where we stand,” said Ghent city councillor Rudy Coddens (SP.A), in charge of social policies and poverty. “If someone were to ask us today how many homeless people there are in Ghent and how they became homeless, we’d have no idea how to answer. In order to set effective public policy, we need to know the figures and the backgrounds. How many homeless people are there and how did they become homeless?”
The city council is working with several agencies to bring the situation into focus, including welfare office OCMW, health and welfare department Caw, homeless shelters and addiction support services.
“After we gather the data, we can adapt our policies,” said Coddens. “How do we, for instance, turn day and night shelters into those that operate 24 hours a day? And how do we then help people get into more permanent housing? The nine cities can inspire each other in altering our methods.”
The Roof project is headed up by UrbAct, which enables cities to work together to develop integrated solutions to urban challenges. It is financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
The seven other cities taking part in Roof are Thessaloniki, Greece; Toulouse, France; Braga, Portugal; Timisoara, Romania; Glasgow, UK; Poznan, Poland; and Odense, Denmark.
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