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Long-term solution needed for homeless in Brussels metro system

08:58 06/04/2023

Brussels metro company Stib accommodated up to 700 homeless people during the winter months, opening stations at night to allow them to sleep more sheltered from the cold.

But a longer-term solution is needed, Bruzz reports, given that the "winter plan" ended on 31 March with the official arrival of spring.

With the winter plan out of force, homeless people are no longer allowed to spend the night in metro stations.

“This happens gradually,” explained a Stib spokeswoman. “Ever since the beginning of March, we have been talking to people, informing them and looking for solutions. Everything is done in a humane way.”

Each year, the Stib looks for solutions all over again. But in order to tackle the problem structurally, the Brussels government has now launched the SubLINK project.

The aim is to bring together all the organisations involved in the problem. Besides Stib and Samusocial, non-profit organisations Diogènes, Lama and Transit are also participating.

“The situation in the Brussels metro is problematic,” said Eric Husson of Lama.

“About 700 people stay there every day. Together with the Stib, we want to look for a solution for those people.”

The first phase of the project started in mid-March at Porte de Namur metro station, where the largest group of homeless people settled this winter. The aim during this first phase is to find out who is staying in the stations and what the possible solutions are.

“There are four categories of people staying there: homeless people, migrants, drug addicts and people with mental health problems,” said Husson.

“This is a very diverse group. That is why we are now trying to find out who the people are first. For example, people without valid residence papers need different solutions than asylum seekers.”

Specifically, two workers from Diogènes and Lama are conducting outreach in the metro station, hoping that more teams will soon also go around to assess what the needs are. After that, the organisations will roll out concrete actions.

To deploy more teams, more staff are needed. An additional 11 people will be recruited for the SubLINK operation within the three associations, and Diogenes and Lama have already issued vacancies and received many applicants to these.

“In April we will be able to recruit new staff,” said Husson.

Once there are more staff and the issues in Naamsepoort metro station are well understood, the project will be rolled out in other metro stations as well.

“Perhaps in late May or early June we will start in the most problematic stations: Ribeaucourt, Yser and Merode,” Husson said.

SubLINK is funded for one year with €816,000 allocated.

“The idea is to be prepared for next winter,” said Husson. “We really need to work on a structural approach.”

Written by Helen Lyons