About two weeks ago I felt it was time again to come to the streets, raise my voice and join in protest against the closing of homeless shelter ‘De Steenhouwer’. It’s not actually a shelter where homeless people sleep, but a walk in house where they can have a rest, a talk, see a doctor, buy clothes, have a decent affordable meal, etc … A warm place run by dozens of volunteers and a necessary part of the social chain against poverty and social inequality.
Slowly, slowly the social weave in my city is being taken apart. In the case of ‘De Steenhouwer’ the city council uses the excuse that the building was not up to security standards anymore and that they are moving the activities to another organization and even raising the amount of money. This of course all sounds logical and even good at a superficial glance, but really it isn’t.
More and more I get a feeling the shop owners and businesses are ruling our city again and putting their mark on our future, and I don’t like where we are going… Sadly it’s not a more eco-friendly and/or social place to live in but a shopping paradise where smoking/drinking homeless people are a thorn in the eyes of the shopkeepers and shoppers alike. People should be able to reach our city easily and quickly and park right in the center instead of banning the car and it’s toxic fumes and investing more in public transport.
It just makes me frustrated and angry when politicians don’t use a longterm vision for the environment we all live in. Antwerp has one of the most polluted airs in our country and yet nothing on any of the political levels in this complicated country is done to change this.
Clean up actions like the closure of ‘The Steenhouwer’ will make our shopping area more sellable, but it’s breaking down a social tolerance we all need to have. Our society isn’t picture perfect and there will always be people falling of the radar or that have trouble finding their way through the system at hand. Like Louis (in the picture above) who came to follow things at the monthly city council meeting and talked to several politicians about his situation. Homeless for over 10 years he’s trying to figure out how to get back on his feet, but it’s hard. ‘De Steenhouwer’ is important for him as a place where he feels comfortable and where he can get up strength and sort things out, where volunteers help him to figure out where he needs to go to find an affordable place to live, …
Lets not forget that homeless people are ‘people’. Not everybody is as strong as some of our politicians would like and it often doesn’t take much to get into trouble and loose the ground beneath your feet. So let’s stay tolerant and help each other out and make this a warm place to live in.