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Lack of food for homeless due to hoarding and closures

16:05 23/03/2020

Brussels-City has turned drinking water fountains on a little early in response to calls from organisations that work with the homeless. The municipality turns the fountains off for the winter, normally reconnecting them in April.

The homeless have had a difficult time getting to food and water sources since the shutdown of the catering sector and shops. Food banks were also forced to close, and extras that used to be donated by supermarkets to food distribution points that cater to the homeless have dried up due to hoarding. Some of those points have had to close, in any case, because they don’t have the space to meet the requirements of the coronavirus shutdown.

Extra shelter space open during the winter in Brussels officially closes on 31 March, making the concern about homeless people not having access to food and water even greater. “It is terribly important that we continue to think about the needs of our most vulnerable citizens during this crisis,” said mayor’s office spokesperson Maité Van Rampelbergh.

Immigration Office also closed

The distribution point normally located at Botanique metro station is moving to the Albertina parking garage at Central Station. “There is much more space there, so people can keep the required distance from each other,” explained Van Rampelbergh. “There is also space there for them to eat in peace.”

Three of the leading organisations in the capital that work with the homeless have called on the regional government to find more space for food distribution points and to set up temporary medical clinics for the homeless as well as refugees. The Immigration Office, which registers asylum-seekers, has also closed, leaving newly arrived migrants with nowhere to go.

They are also asking the region to temporarily house the homeless in spaces now closed due to the coronavirus crisis, such as sports halls.

Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw