Since April 2020, and in response to the coronavirus pandemic, DoucheFLUX has expanded its activities to include temporary accommodation. This is an original project, rich in experiences and one that certainly opens up new possibilities. Around fifteen people, mostly women, are housed in accommodation such as hostels or hotels, and benefit from social assistance and a series of cultural, sporting, well-being and entertainment activities, as well as quality meals.
The project started at the JES Sleep Inn in Molenbeek, near the canal. Much more than just a hostel, JES Sleep Inn is firmly rooted in Brussels and promotes urban activities and cohesion for young people in particular. Like many other hostels, JES Sleep Inn had to close down all of its operations overnight due to the pandemic. However, JES and DoucheFLUX quickly started working hand-in-hand to offer safe and pleasant accommodation during the lockdown for homeless people who were already known to social services and/or to DoucheFLUX field workers.
Since September 2020, JES Sleep Inn has 'unfortunately' resumed its usual business. As a result, the hostel could no longer be used by DoucheFLUX, but the whole community was able to move to a hotel located in the commune of Forest, where they can stay until at least 31 December 2020.
As was expected at the very start of the project, new residents' first weeks in this temporary accommodation were mostly an opportunity to restore their strength and enjoy some restful sleep. Once this foundation was in place, in-depth social work could be initiated. DoucheFLUX purposefully opted for a limited number of people to be hosted in the hostel in order to be able to provide quality support for everyone.
DoucheFLUX's social worker accompanied the residents in resolving various issues, such as administrative procedures, welfare rights (social integration benefits, referral address, medical card etc.), registration at various social housing agencies (AIS/SIK) to obtain accommodation, and debt mediation.
It is obvious that providing assistance to people when they have a roof over their head can be much more thorough than when they are living on the street. Rest and security provide a context in which those living in precarious circumstances can regain the courage to step forward and re-establish trust with organisations that support them.
In view of the housing market, the big challenge remains to find sustainable housing for all these people. One woman was finally able to move into a house in September 2020.
DouchFLUX's activities-and-training coordinator organised a series of activities. In the beginning, these were limited in variety due to the lockdown: stretching, body language, film showings, karaoke, and board games. Thanks to JES, the residents also had access to ping-pong, climbing sessions and bike rides. When the lockdown lifted, the activities diversified to include cultural outings and relaxation (MIMA, MigratieMuseumMigration, Museum of Natural Sciences, bowling, Fête de la Musique, canal cruises, district exploration with AlterBrussels, etc.), photo workshops, choir, and yoga sessions.
Les Gastrosophes took care of the meals. Loyal to their principles and mission, they prepare healthy and delicious meals with unsold organic food. On Sundays, Les Gastrosophes invite a chef to prepare a 3-star menu with a starter, a main course and a dessert, surrounded by flowers and on tablecloths!
Finally, we would like to thank the dedication of our dozen volunteers who stepped forth quickly at the beginning of the lockdown to ensure a presence at the hostel and support the activities.
The project received a subsidy from the COCOM/GGC, which has allowed us to hire a full-time coordinator (since 20 April) and two educators/night watchmen (since 16 June), and to remunerate the hostel as well as Les Gastrosophes. The project also benefits from the support of the municipality of Molenbeek.
« Hôtel solidaire » ("Solidarity Hotel")
In addition to this joint project with JES and Les Gastrosophes, DoucheFLUX is also involved in another accommodation project, called "Hôtel solidaire" ("Solidarity hotel"), in collaboration with the non-profit organisations Diogenes and L’Îlot/'t Eliandje. A total of 23 people – including 10 under the care of DoucheFLUX – are housed at Hotel Sabina in the municipality of Brussels. You can listen to an interview with Ariane Dierickx, director of L'Îlot/'t Eilandje, where she talks about the project, or read an article by La Libre Belgique on the subject.