Paul Morris talks to two Belgian organizations at the forefront of helping people in distress.
One of the main players in Belgian aid services is Samusocial, which is the local branch of Samusocialinternational. They provide a free number (0800 99340) that anyone can call. So who uses the number? Christophe Thielens explains: “Homeless people and people in distress contact us, normally about housing requests or information on social services, etc. The social services, hospitals and police also dial up when they come into contact with someone who needs help. We also get calls about tourists who have been mugged, women who are victims of domestic violence or people evicted from their apartment. The general public also uses it to report anyone they come across who requires our services.”
Christophe said: “Our mobile teams, composed of a driver, a nurse and a social worker/or a psychologist drive around Brussels looking for people who seem to be in physical or social distress. The teams provide a friendly ear, food and hot drinks, blankets, clean clothes, care products and primary medical care and psychological support.”
Samusocial also provides emergency accommodation for many of these people and offers the same service in their centres, including psychological consultations and medical consultations (provided by Médecins du Monde).
Christophe said: “We try to stimulate them to accept a social support plan. A social worker helps them to make appointments in specialized services (public administration, public social services, medical appointment, etc.); drug addicts, alcoholics and people with psychiatric problems are referred to rehabilitation centres; other people are oriented to nursing homes, hospitals, private housing, centres for victims of domestic violences, etc. Samusocial offers psychological support as well.”
In winter, they have at least 900 additional beds (November-March), 600 beds more than 300 beds they have available all year round. They also have other initiatives aimed at finding permanent housing for people who have lost their way in life.
Samusocial has also had to react to asylum crisis. “At Maximilian Park we have settled hundreds of refugees who were not candidates for a place in the Fedasil centres and installed a permanent hygiene framework with the help of the City of Brussels and Médicins du Monde. We provide humanitarian standby 24h/24, in order to identify and support the most vulnerable people, such as families with children, pregnant women, people who are weak.”
So, how is this all paid for? Christophe explained: “The remaining state funding is insufficient to meet the growing exclusion of people from society. Samusocial seeks to develop partnerships with the private sector to provide the means to boost its power to react. Partners such as Carrefour, Belfius, Interparking financially support us. Samusocial also invites the general public to support our efforts through financial donations (online or www.samusocial.be on the account BE04 0000 0000 3131 – all donations of more than €40 tax deductible).
Solidarité Grands Froids
A non-profit organization dedicated to helping the homeless and the helpless, Solidarité Grands Froid’s motto is “Improving life in the streets”.
Help the homeless
From November to March, this operation allows the holding of two weekly social changing rooms in collaboration with the Brussels Samusocial, making two premises available Tuesday and Friday evenings.
Volunteers sign up for the distribution, and the calendar manager oversees ad all registrations in collaboration with leaders of the social changing rooms.
This project attracts a hundred volunteers every year.
Solidarité Grand Froid’s Cynthia Simpson explains: “Basically, our core business is to provide clothes to the homeless and try to be there for them to make their everyday lives a little ‘warmer’. We believe in educating homeless children by giving them the correct tools, such as school books, as well giving as access to books in one of the three bookshops we have set up. We also organize events such as Saint Nicolas and other Christmas activities.”
– Collection of items such as dishes, furniture to assist organizations helping people reintegrate into life.
– Libraries: The books are distributed to organizations such as children’s homes, and those that need aid with literacy.
– Plastic bottle tops are collected to help the Belgian Center for Guide Dogs (le Centre Belge pour Chiens-Guide).
Cynthia adds: “In addition, we act as ‘wholesalers to various associations, since we have noticed that many people want to help but no one takes care of organizing it. We donate to any association that makes a request and also organize teambuilding events for large corporations.”
Two very strong strings to Solidarité Grands Froid’s bow are Mamy Douceurs and SolidariFemmes. Mamy Douceurs’ task is to help homeless children living in the street through donations of clothing, diapers and school supplies..
SolidariFemmes is a group with the very specific remit of helping women in distress. A number of them have fled their homes and often arrive with their children to protect them and rebuild their lives in a refuge. After intense psychosocial work done by professionals, these women have to find a home and rebuild their lives but they often have nothing.
“Our specificity is that all our donations toward any beneficiary are free of charge,” says Cynthia. “You can donate directly to: Account Number (IBAN): BE82 6511 5585 6168.”
Join us in our distribution of warm clothing to the homeless and our other projects: info@ solidaritegrandfroid.be
Tel: +32(0)477 33 85 47
Warehouse: 191 Blvd. Souverain, 1160 Auderghem (Tuesday, Friday, 12h00-16h00)