Over three weeks, a Brussels-based creative shares their view of the world. Laura Krsmanovic (alias isola podcast) is a podcast maker and communication activist. She wrote this last column together with Dominique Lecoq.
Instagram: @isola_podcast, Spotify
In this third column, I want to give a platform to a friend who deserves our full attention and never gets it.
I met Dominique Lecoq two years ago in a corridor of Central Station when I was volunteering with the Doucheflux organisation on one of their rounds. I was holding my microphone up to people living on the street whom we met during lockdown excursions in Brussels so that they could express themselves freely and, above all, with dignity. I was immediately impressed by his passion and directness. He fights for access to housing for homeless people in Brussels, where more than 5,000 people are on the street despite the existence of more than six million square metres of empty living space. Four years ago, he even launched a petition to make the empty buildings available for use by homeless people and collected enough signatures from the people of Brussels for the Brussels regional parliament to organise a committee to deliberate on it. Where did he find such strength after so many years on the streets?
After our most recent conversation a few days ago, something became clear to me: he is Brussels. Brussels is him, it is them. It is those people who we pass regularly in the street, with whom we too often avoid eye contact. All human drama and joy is in the street. Love, solidarity, violence, addiction, injustice. All the humanity in the world can be found there. All you have to do is look.
Over to you, Dominique.
“People of Brussels,
You may remember, in early 2020 we launched a petition for a mixed committee to be set up in the regional parliament to finally, after 12 years of inertia, implement a law aimed at obliging (on pain of heavy fines) the owners, both public and private, of the 14,000 empty homes in Brussels to put them back on the housing market. More than 4,000 of you signed. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you.
Under great pressure, our elected representatives (reluctantly!) established that committee, which has been deliberating since mid-2021. Being good strategists, however, they dodged the single (embarrassing) question beforehand by muddying the waters, diluting the plan by widening the discussion to the problem of homelessness as a whole. That was not what we asked for, as we are well aware of the scale of the problem and the challenges involved.
Nonetheless, it has produced some interesting proposals, but the committee has no legal power, and we fear that these recommendations, which are too numerous, will remain pipe dreams as usual or be added to the never-ending list of 'electoral promises'.
Today, war is at our door. Along with millions of refugees. We are 100% in solidarity with our friends from Ukraine, especially given that it is mostly women, children, and older people who are finding themselves, like us, on the street! Our leaders tell us that Belgium is 'all set' to provide emergency accommodation to 250,000 refugees and has already 'freed up' 8,000 homes to house them. 'Belgium is all set': we have heard those words before, in early 2020, from our beloved Minister Maggie De Block, at the beginning of the Covid crisis, so we know exactly what they mean, unfortunately.
In any case, if it is possible to accommodate 250,000 people in an emergency, it must also be possible to finally house the 6,000 or so homeless people who have been 'locked' on our streets for at least 20 years. Is that not small fry in comparison? When it comes to this issue at least, our 'politicians' have really painted themselves into a corner.
In advance, thank you.