POLITICS & INSTITUTIONS - ECONOMY

Precarious life: help for homeless people in Lux.



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Back in May 2017, the first overnight shelter for homeless people was opened in Dommeldange. As of 11 September, it remains the only centre managed by Red Cross in the grand duchy. 

The new centre is a safe haven for homeless people to rest, eat, wash themselves and have a good night’s sleep. An older centre for homeless people is located near the central train station district, named “Nuetswaach-L’espoir”, and managed by Caritas.  

The centre in Dommeldange opened on 2 May 2017 and recorded 60 different clients, with more than 300 visits in the month of August. The shelter has a capacity of 10 beds with one extra bed for emergencies.  

Maxime Pax, a manager at the shelter in Dommeldange, explained to Delano on 11 September that: ”before visiting the shelter, people have to sign up in our office Streetwork Uewerstad [open 10am-12noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 1 rue des Gaulois in Luxembourg-Bonnevoie] or they can register in the centre for the same evening.” 

The demand is high as, according to Pax, the centre reaches its full capacity every night, with a waiting list of 6-8 people.  

The doors open every day at 7pm. Visitors will first be assigned to their bedding and sleeping place. Afterwards, they are served dinner and can take a shower, if needed. The shelter doesn’t only offer safety, but provides overnight residents with a trust-building platform where they can get support, according to Pax:  

“there are exchanges between social workers and our clients: the workers respond to questions and give them the necessary guidance. The consulting is usually done over sandwiches and soup.” 

Between 7pm and 10pm, the team of social workers waits for calls from Inter-Actions, another NGO, to use the emergency bed. If there is no emergency, the bed will be given to the next person on the waiting list. At 7am the next morning, the clients need to wake up. They are provided with breakfast until the centre is emptied at 9am.  

Pax said expansion plans are being discussed, but no decisions have been made.  

Poverty numbers in Luxembourg 

The high attendance in the centre in Dommeldange reflects on the climbing figures of socially excluded people in the grand duchy. 

Already back in September 2016, Alexandra Oxacelay, a manager with the NGO Stëmm vun der Strooss, flagged up in an interview with 100,7 public radio that there is an expanding gap between wealth and poverty in Luxembourg and the serious lack of overnight institutions.  

A report on national poverty released by Statec in October 2016 showed that the numbers of people living in poverty have increased between 1996 and 2015, with a peak in 2014 (16.4%). The risk of falling into poverty is twice higher for foreigners living in Luxembourg (22.3%) than for local residents (7.9%). The report of 2015 also showed that the stakes are higher for people with low educational qualifications. A total of 1,185 socially excluded people was recorded in 2015, making up 0.2% of the entire population.  

Winter action 

As the colder months of the year are approaching, the situation of homeless people becomes more tenuous. Luxembourg’s government initiated a programme back in 2001, called Wanteraktioun (winter action), to prevent homeless people from becoming victims of hypothermic conditions. The shelters shut down in warmer weather months.

Several social organisations have partnered up with the family and integration ministry to accommodate and provide people with food. According to Inter-Actions, 1,792 people showed up in the day shelters and 864 people stayed overnight between December 2016 and March 2017.  

Depending on weather conditions, this year’s Wanteracktioun is preliminarily scheduled to start up in the beginning of December.