It’s cold, very cold in Europe. The number of people who have died over the last few days because of the freezing conditions, especially in central and eastern Europe, has risen sharply.
Western European cities have also been hit by the bitterly cold temperatures. In Brussels, euronews decided to follow Red Cross volunteers who have been braving the freezing temperatures, around -12, to to help the homeless. Warm clothes, blankets, food and hot soup and coffee are just some of the vital supplies they offer for those who don’t want to spend the night in a hostel. People like Luc who has decided to seek shelter in the metro. Tonight, he has some good news. Come March, he’ll have a home.
‘‘I’ve looked everywhere and I’ve found it. 360 euros plus 80 for electricity, gas and everything else,’‘ he tells us.
The Red Cross team out this evening insist they deliver a vital service.
‘‘We respect their choice not to go to a hostel and we give them a chance to talk to someone. We have a chat with them. It’s an exchange which can last anything between 10, 15 or 20 minutes,’‘ says Luc Swysen a volunteer for nearly 30 years.
Samu Social is a publicly funded Belgian body to help the homeless. We met one of its team leaders Jean-Felix who has 12 years service. His job is to locate those sleeping rough. It’s estimated anything between 3000 and 4000 people in Brussels may have no fixed abode, even if some individuals have no desire to have one.
Patrick, who is homeless, said: ‘‘I like my independence. When I’m in a shelter there are people telling me what I can and can’t do’‘
Elsewhere in the metro in Brussels the team comes across Agim who was beaten up by youths for his benefits the night before.
“They tried to steal my wallet and when I refused they beat me, my head and my arm,’‘ he says.
Tonight, Agim will get the chance to spend a night in a hotel. A temporary luxury made possible because Samu Social has several rooms. For Jean Felix, however, the night is still young.
‘‘The problem is starting to hit other sections of society. There are those who continue to work, who have a small part-time job, but find themselves on the streets as they are not able to pay the going rate of rent in Brussels of 500 euros a month.’‘
In all Samu Social has 400 beds for the Belgian capital’s homeless and plans to continue its winter service until the end of March.