English Traduction - PatchWork 3

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ItineRRances is an artistic project initiated by the non profit organisation “Bulle”, in partnership with several actors of the Brussels associative network.

Thanks to the involvement of eleven photographers and reporters, this collaborative exhibition offers a multiplicity of views on homelessness experienced on a daily basis. Shuffled between the various aid services and public administrations, people in precarious situations have no choice but to pace their weekly itinerary according to the schedules of the institutions they frequent.

Through four themes (hygiene & health, access to housing, violence & addictions and social & cultural), ItineRRances pays tribute to people who are wandering, here and elsewhere, and to all the actors on the ground.

This exhibition is intended to be nomadic, scattered around the capital, in order to occupy public space as much as possible.

Thanks to all the photographers;  Andréas Athanassiadis, Emily Bendib, Anatole Damien, Florence Detienne, Julien Dewarichet, Yvan Fonsny, Vera Keraudren, Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing, Stéfanne Prijot, Chloé Thôme et Sarah Verlaine.

And our partners: Bouche à Oreille, Dune, Les 3 Pommiers, L’Ilot, RestoJet, Rolling Douche et Street&Read. 

Anyone can end up on the street at some point. Financial difficulties, family and domestic violence, accessibility and availability of housing, relationship breakdowns and health problems are just some of the many reasons why people find themselves in a difficult situation. Homelessness is complex and not simply a lack of housing. We do not claim to have all the answers, but we hope to raise awareness and ask the right questions.

Hygiene, an essential need

 Hygiene is linked to our body, to our intimacy, and therefore also to our identity. It is a basic need that also impacts on health, and to which every human being should have access, free of charge. This is an essential need, but one that is not easily accessible to the 5313 homeless or poorly housed people (living in unhealthy accommodation) counted in the capital (figure taken from the latest count on 9/11/2020, by Brusshelp in collaboration with the King Baudouin Foundation). The hygiene of the body is the first thing one offers to the people in front of one. If you don’t have a good self-image, what must the other person think of you? Because feeling good about your body is also a way of having a positive perception of yourself and thus feeling integrated in society.


Housing, a fundamental right

We all need a roof over our heads, a place to rest, to take care of ourselves, to feel safe, to feel at home. Housing is therefore a fundamental right. However, today in Belgium, thousands of people are sleeping on the streets. Thousands of people cannot afford to pay their rent. Thousands of people live in unhealthy housing, or housing that is too small, and thousands of others are afraid that they will not be able to find housing or re-housing in decent conditions. Finding sustainable housing is therefore often a long and arduous journey: there are too many conditions, too many steps. This is why solutions are emerging, such as the AIS (Agence Immobilière Sociale), or the Housing First method.

The importance of social interaction

Social isolation often hits as hard as poverty. On the streets, the days are long and the nights far from restful. Feeling expected, listened to and considered is essential to keep your spirits up and to avoid sinking. Human contact is sometimes as invigorating as a meal or a warm night. So how do you keep yourself busy and organise your time when you are in a precarious situation? Facilitating access to culture, reading books, taking part in art workshops, and (re)constructing a clothing identity are all ways of (re)creating social links, keeping one’s mind occupied and, in this way, escaping a little.

Violence and addiction

The collective imagination often associates homelessness with street violence and addictions of all kinds. However, this is neither a general rule nor an inevitability! As in every social environment, these notions coexist. Many people in precarious situations have the will to get out of it. The important thing is to reduce the risks and to inform about good practices. Unfortunately, the frequent visits to the streets and precarious housing lead to stress, cold, addictions and violence, which damage the homeless. Their bodies bear the marks of this. To protect themselves, they hide in the crowd and become invisible.

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“Reading takes my mind off my problems and allows me to escape into reading,” says Rick.
He has been borrowing books for several months from the mobile library at Place Flagey. “

“They realised by talking to people on the street that they also had cultural needs”, explains Christian, one of the initiators.”

Street&Read is a mobile library project initiated in September 2019 in partnership with DoucheFlux, and is particularly aimed at so-called homeless people, but also allows certain encounters between audiences from otherwise compartmentalised backgrounds. They lend books free of charge and with no registration requirements; no address, no name; to people who otherwise do not easily go to public libraries, sometimes imagining temples of culture that are not meant for them; or sometimes also, for practical reasons, because the days are already quite busy (notably bulky plastic woven bags).

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“The Central Station was the first place I could go, I didn’t know any other place in Brussels. I had my little life here, I had a little community. It was a place where we met, at a certain time. Around 5pm. Some people stayed here all day, I went for a walk. I was going to visit, I was going to see the surroundings. I wasn’t going to stay here all day drinking beers. I would have been bored to death. When it rained, it was a bit quieter there. There was a plug that was removed by the police afterwards. Because there were people who were not very discreet. When I was charging my phone, I put my backpack in front of it. I pretended that nothing was going on, as if nothing was happening. No one ever told me anything. It’s not the safest place but it’s a refuge all the same. “

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Everyone has the right to escape, to culture, to let oneself go in complete confidence, but not everyone has the same possibilities and priorities. To regain one’s mind, to air and occupy it, to have a project are central elements of a life. Often this is overlooked as a secondary need compared to food and housing for example. Nevertheless, keeping busy and dreaming of another future in order to project oneself into another life are a necessary complement to the desire to get out of it for the better. Access to infrastructure is therefore essential, as is the fact of feeling useful and alive for society, of no longer having this passive and sometimes infantilised role in the administration of one’s own life.

On the square in front of the Beguinage church, occupied by several hundred undocumented migrants, Pierre, himself homeless, welcomes an old man in his arms. The man can barely speak. He is cold. Pierre gives him his blanket. He can no longer stand upright and is sleepy. Pierre carries him, at arm’s length, to “his bench” which he gives up for the night.

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After years of wandering around Europe, C. was living in a tent and earning money from the daily begging when he met members of the 3 Pommiers association in Etterbeek, who took him under their wing. Today he lives in an ASBL flat and is about to start his first professional training.

Les 3 Pommiers is a home for women or couples with children.
They offer an individual flat so that each person can rebuild in an intimate place where they can feel at home. The duration of the stay depends on the needs of the person so that each person can progress at their own pace.

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“Like it was… we were plague, we were contagious… that being around us they were going to get homelessness, the new disease… the street disease you see?”

Personally, I am ashamed to be on the street

Once, in a bus, I was talking with a friend… euh… I don’t know what we were talking about, but we were talking about homeless people. I said: ‘but I live in a garage’… I’m homeless… not something else…
I don’t know what subject I said the word ‘homeless’ on. I don’t know what subject I said the word ‘homeless’ on. Four people heard that word.
They got up and went to the back.