One in five homeless adults in Belgium is under 26
One in five homeless adults in Belgium is under 26, concludes a study by LUCAS KU Leuven and UCLouvain CIRTES. "The stereotypical image of a drug-addicted homeless person is outdated. Homelessness also affects single mothers with children, undocumented migrants or people facing eviction," says Koen Hermans, professor at KU Leuven.
The definition of homelessness is also much broader than people sleeping on the streets, as they are only the tip of the iceberg. The number of hidden homeless people is much higher. "About 30 to 35 per cent of those counted are women. They mainly spend the night in temporary shelters with family or friends. They are less visible and often spend less time homeless than men", professor Hermans notes.
"Their situation is often the result of domestic violence or relationship problems. We also counted a lot of children, on average about 27 per cent, but in some regions, it goes up to 30 per cent".
A relatively large proportion - between 30 and 50 per cent - of the population counted comprises people with a migrant background. About a quarter of people experiencing homelessness have a history of institutionalisation. In some regions, one in five homeless people has an income from work.
"We need to focus on prevention and stop people from becoming homeless"
"We need to focus on prevention and stop people from becoming homeless," Hermans adds. "Therefore, evictions with children should be almost impossible. Flanders has had a Flemish action plan on homelessness since 2020, but the needs are still very great," the professor concludes.
The researchers hope to repeat the survey every 2-3 years, supported by the King Baudouin Foundation, an independent and pluralistic Belgian charitable foundation. The Foundation collects philanthropic donations and distributes them to various projects.
© BELGA PHOTO KRISTOF VAN ACCOM