The homeless, between loneliness and survival against the coronavirus

Staying at home to avoid getting the new coronavirus is not possible for homeless people, faced with increasing tension. In Brussels, the Samu Social takes to the streets to help him, including with an emergency center.

“There he goes! I forgot to ask him if he had a small bottle of disinfectant,” says Nelly (not her real name at her request) to Roberto, a nurse at the Samu Social on the go with her partner Edwige.

Wrapped in her coat and thick scarf, this 72-year-old woman settled in a pedestrian tunnel under the rails of one of Brussels’ main train stations. Protected from bad weather, but not from drafts.

“We always try not to go where there are too many people. I avoid doing it,” explains the old woman, who claims to respect much more this way of operating in these times of pandemic.

“We run less risk staying abroad than in confined places,” says Nelly, who does not like shelters. “I do everything on foot. I avoid getting close to people. We do what we can.”

At a time when the slogans of the Belgian government are “stay home”, their situation is a “paradox”, in the words of the general director of the Social Samu of Brussels, Sébastien Roy.

“It does not adapt to the profiles we are dealing with, namely, collective housing and the world of the homeless,” he explains to AFP.

A little later in the round, Edwige and Roberto head to the popular Marolles neighborhood, known for its trail. A call alerted them to the difficulties facing a man with a crutch.

It is Katia, a neighbor, who is concerned about the attention she may receive and even about her food, especially when it is “even more difficult to have coffee in the morning” due to the decreed closure of restaurants.

“And, with all of us at home, these people are alone, without contact. I think they suffer even more from the situation than we do, that we ‘must’ stay home,” he laments.

– Survival and tension –

Three men approach the Samu Social’s truck, regulars, asking for socks, warm clothes and something to eat.

“We are now in the survival phase,” explains Edwige, whose social work and reintegration work is on hold due to the crisis.

“We feel that they are increasingly hungry. For now it is going well, but we only have cans of tuna … They ask us for a lot of water, but we do not have it,” he describes.

The hygiene situation is “catastrophic”. Many associations that offered showers had to close, especially for personnel reasons, since it is confined and considered risky, given the advanced middle age of the volunteers.

The Samu Social, which recruits personnel, especially health personnel, to cope with the situation, has created a center to welcome people suspected of having been infected and demands evidence for all shelters. The center currently houses eight.

“Through our rounds, information that reaches us is that the tension increases, because people have seen their system of resistance or resilience decrease,” says the director of Samu Social.

According to Roy, “there is less chance of begging, access to food is more complicated, there are many day centers that have closed, so the tension is palpable both for the homeless and for people who are migrants in transit” .

“What’s more, they are no longer allowed to sit on the benches, they no longer have access to the parks. All these factors make them feel more threatened and, therefore, more tense than before,” he adds.

Written by Argentina News

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