Brussels, May 25, 2023
Following a series of incidents that endangered the safety of social workers and beneficiaries in several reception services around the Midi train station, we cried out, concerned but not without foresight: “Rapidly increasing precarity of large segments of the population and a systemic lack of solutions, that’s the explosive cocktail.”
In the face of immediate violence, the spontaneous response is one of security and prevention. Our immediate intention is to preserve a minimal essential well-being for the teams, who are already exposed to risk in low-threshold and frontline support. However, a security-focused response is inadequate and does not fully satisfy anyone.
We, low-threshold and frontline organizations, assert the connection between the violence experienced by the teams and the staggering lack of solutions they can offer, facilitate, and explore. When one can only register on an endless waiting list for social housing, wait months for a psychiatric bed, witness chronically overcrowded addiction treatment centers, see regularization happening sparingly and based on vague criteria, witness thousands of homeless young people “choosing” to turn their backs on a society that offers them no real prospects, and observe the growing number of homeless individuals alongside the number of unused buildings… nothing is more predictable, normal, and legitimate than discouragement and anger.
Often reduced to saying, “Sorry, hang in there… and good luck!” field workers operate in a minefield of time bombs labeled “no solution.” Let us not forget that by encouraging people to knock on doors that often do not even exist, we contribute to making these individuals invisible and, in turn, the societal absence of real solutions. We, low-threshold and frontline organizations, are the overflowing receptacle of the system’s failures and the victims they create. We are at the end of a long series of “missed appointments” between society and individuals with troubled paths, sometimes since their early childhood. We are the patches on a non-existent tire for many, as exhausted from a lack of solutions as we are exhausted ourselves.
We are sounding the alarm and refuse to be left to our own devices in a societal impasse for which we are not responsible.
Specific situations require specific measures and dedicated crisis resources, but for them to be effective, they must be embedded in and relevant to a broader diagnosis: a society slowly but inevitably falling apart for many. We have seen that in an unprecedented crisis, such as the Ukrainian refugee crisis, solutions for accommodation, housing, access to rights, work, and housing were implemented rapidly and effectively. This proves that when there is genuine will, anything is possible.
For the public we serve, facing chronic precarity, the conclusion is undeniable: the authorities do not lack resources. What is lacking is political will.
We, organizations in the social and health sector that work daily with homeless individuals, those with insecure residency, health and mental health issues, and even addiction problems, call on the public authorities − of the Brussels-Capital Region, the State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Ministry for Poverty Reduction, and the municipalities of Anderlecht, Brussels-City, and Saint-Gilles − to contact us as soon as possible to recognize a situation of “crisis” that requires the joint implementation of measures to improve the working conditions of the field teams and provide concrete and dignified life prospects for the most vulnerable individuals in the Brussels-Capital Region… unless it is decided that we are already doing enough for them?
First signatories: AMO Rythme, Bulle, DoucheFLUX, L’Ilot, Infirmiers de rue, La Rencontre, Macadam, Pierre d’Angle, Sarparast, Rolling Douche, SOS Jeunes – Quartier Libre ASBL
Press contact / Becoming a signatory: Laurent d’Ursel – 0471 41 10 08 – firstname.lastname@example.org