Ghent Launches Pioneering ‘Robust Homes’ Project for Long-Term Homeless Reintegration

Last week, the City of Ghent unveiled a groundbreaking initiative aimed at reintegrating long-term homeless individuals into society, using specially designed ‘robust homes’ and comprehensive support services. Hafsa El-Bazioui, Alderman for Facility Management, highlighted the project’s focus on providing comfort, privacy, and a sense of community in these 36 square-metre duplexes. This innovative approach, part of Ghent’s ROOF action plan, represents Belgium’s first foray into utilizing such a housing model to address chronic homelessness, with inspiration drawn from a similar concept in Denmark.

Design and Community Focus

The 11 ‘robust homes’ in Ghent are not just architectural feats; they are a testament to the belief that environment plays a crucial role in rehabilitation and reintegration. Each home offers not only well-insulated living spaces but also bright seating areas designed to foster a balance between privacy and community interaction. The complex features walled front gardens and a shared garden with separate walking paths, creating a setting where residents can find both solitude and a sense of belonging.

Comprehensive Support System

With the first tenants set to move in soon, the project’s success hinges on more than just the physical structures. Each resident, five women and six men with a history of long-term homelessness, will receive tailored social services support. A site manager will also be available during weekdays, acting as a central point of contact for residents and fostering a supportive community atmosphere. This holistic approach aims to address the multifaceted nature of homelessness, focusing on gradual reintegration into mainstream society.

A Step Towards Ending Homelessness

Ghent’s ambitious ROOF action plan, which prioritizes housing as the first step in tackling the broader issues facing homeless individuals, underpins this initiative. By creating a low-stimulus, non-disruptive environment, the ‘robust homes’ project is a significant stride towards realizing the city’s goal of eradicating homelessness by 2040. It not only challenges traditional perceptions of addressing homelessness but also sets a precedent for other cities to follow, making it a beacon of hope and innovation in social housing.

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