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LGBT safehouse in Brussels to expand due to demand

15:57 04/10/2019

The demand for assistance from the safehouse established last year in Brussels for gay, lesbian and transgender youth far exceeds its capacity. Le Refuge took in 17 young people, but had 50 requests for temporary housing.

Le Refuge assists people aged about 18 to 25 with temporary housing and counselling. Generally the youth have been kicked out of their homes or have simply found it impossible to live with their parents because of their LGBT identity. The goal is to make sure that LGBT youth do not end up on the street.

“We only have eight spaces,” Dimitri Verdonck of Le Refuge told Bruzz. “Next to that, we offered assistance to 26 people. Not everyone who’s involved in a conflict needs shelter.”

Now the halfway house is looking for another building. “We have our eye on a few places,” said Verdonck. “We are still looking at the financing, but we hope to be able to expand by January.”

Verdonck told the paper that he was amazed at how many Belgian parents are still rejecting their children because they are LGBT. He also notes that LGBT refugees have requested housing and assistance, even though they have the right to stay in an asylum centre.

“Life is often very difficult for these youth in asylum centres because they attract attention from the other residents and face discrimination and threats.”

Since Le Refuge opened, a similar safehouse has opened in Liège with two rooms. Since there’s no such place in Flanders, Le Refuge also takes in youth from that region.

Verdonck’s ultimate goal is to establish a network of safehouses in Europe. “We already co-operate with houses in France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, exchanging tips and good practices. We want to bolster this network so that we can, over time, establish halfway houses across Europe.”

Written by Lisa Bradshaw