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Candles shine light on homelessness in the Netherlands

Candles shine light on homelessness in the Netherlands

Candles shine light on homelessness in the Netherlands

Thousands of candles have been arranged by The Salvation Army in the Malieveld in the centre of The Hague to highlight the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Netherlands. Photo: Peter de Krom.

By Darryl Whitecross

The Salvation Army in the Netherlands has placed thousands of lights in the Malieveld, a park in the centre The Hague, in support of the tens of thousands of people documented as experiencing homelessness in the European country.

Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) figures recently showed that at least 32,000 people were without a roof over their heads in the country so the Army created the display to represent that number.

The Army said there were too few shelters available for the homeless and has called on the government to provide a “structural solution”.

Menno de Boer, a senior advisor with the Army’s Marketing and Communications Department in the Netherlands, said what shelters were available were “clogged” because of a shortage of housing options. People had no choice but to stay in shelters or on the streets.

In what has been called the ‘Delta Living Plan’, the Army has recommended that a national housing agenda should move quickly to provide 10,000 new homes for the homeless, including converting empty buildings into small-scale independent residential units.

Captain Harm Slomp, chairman of the board of directors of the Army’s Welfare and Healthcare Foundation and the Youth Protection and Probation Foundation, said housing was a human right and the government needed to do more to prevent homelessness.

“Having your own place is a starting point for the recovery of normal life,” Harm said. “It also saves society a lot of money and matters such as social security and human dignity are better safeguarded if people have their own place to live. Housing is not an investment product or a marketplace but a fundamental human right. It is now the government’s turn to give shape to this right for this target group.”

The Army has also called for funding to provide general counselling and debt counselling services “to prevent relapse and nuisance” of homelessness.

Harm said several municipalities across the country were trying to address the crisis “but that’s not enough. The whole of the Netherlands has to pull out all the stops to realise housing for this group.”

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