Street Nurses (Infirmiers de Rue): How do we help people living in the street for more than 10years?
The non-profit organization Street Nurses was formed in April 2005, following a year and a half of field studies. Two Nurses realized that, despite there being many medical and social organizations in Brussels (Belgium), there were still a great number of homeless people in the Belgian capital. They noticed that personal care and health were major issues for homeless people and were convinced that they could solve these problems.
The organization has three primary goals: field work, trainings and tools.
Field work: Street Nurses takes to the streets to meet patients directly in their environment, without asking for payment. We take care of them, earning their trust, and we motivate them to take charge of their personal care and health by accompanying them to specific care facilities, by actively listening to their needs and giving them advice.
Our work is also based on prevention and the dissemination of health information. We are medical and social intermediaries between, on the one hand, persons who live in an extremely precarious situation and on the other, healthcare professionals and social workers.
The follow-up of patients ends with the integration of the patient in accommodation where he or she is regularly supported by professionals and volunteers of Street Nurses, and a network of social associations.
We aim to assist persons who live in extremely precarious situations by offering them a home and by permanently reintegrating them into society. This medium- to long-term goal is achieved by improving the living conditions and the hygiene of these individuals, as well as their self-esteem.
Trainings: Street Nurses organizes different types of awareness-raising sessions and training courses in French or Dutch on ‘hygiene and precariousness’ and ‘basic first aid’. These trainings are address to any target group that is likely to come into direct contact with homeless people or that works with people who live at home and have major hygiene issues. Our nurses organize sessions on site – in schools, in the offices of security guards and social workers, clinics etc.
Tools: Street Nurses develops prevention tools and information packages to raise awareness among homeless persons about the importance of personal care and health, to give them better access to care and to facilitate their medium - to long-term rehabilitation. Certain tools, however, are aimed at raising awareness among the general public about the situation of homeless people. Examples: list of showers in Brussels, map of fountains and free public conveniences, symptoms and interventions in case of hypothermia, Frostbite prevention poster, Heat stroke prevention poster
Since 2005 the non-profit organization Street nurses has grown and its projects are continuously developed. Today, Street Nurses has the equivalent of 13,84 full-time staff members and approximately 60 volunteers.
We saw the call by the Mac Arthur Foundation too, but we tough we were way to small to try and get it so we were very happy to receive the information trough DoucheFLux that this kind of initiative exists. We are mostly organized to search every year for new funds. We try to find the good balance between private, public and foundation funds but because of our high costs of wages it is difficult to fund foundations that are willing to support us. Most of them give only money for material or structural projects, not for day to day tasks, and that is what Street Nurses is all about.
Since a couple of years we opened our work to an even more inclusive service. We have a collaboration going on with Social housing agencies in Brussels to try to give homeless people a decent home at the end. We participate to the program Housing First Brussels.
We have a good network within the association field in Brussels, but when we go to specific funds we are not transcribed in their goals. For example, they help by giving furniture for kids, or funds for kid projects. But our main audience, people living on the street between 8 and 20 years is often forgotten.
Something rather unique in the social field is that we have one of our colleagues that is paid by two different organizations, ours and another non-profit organization. This makes it possible to create a solid bridge between both organizations and have a great information flow. We think there is bright future is this way of work.
Finally we organize a colloquium the 20th of October in Brussels that has as goal to eradicate homelessness in Brussels for ever. With the mindset: if even we can find homes for the most difficult audience, you can too! We want to share our experience in the field. It takes time and dedication for each of our people to do the whole process, from getting the confidence, to willing to have a stable home. But we want to show that the hard work also has direct results, and if we rally our forces we can go for a total abolishment of homelessness in Brussels!