It’s been almost two weeks since students occupied the Academy building, and the university hasn’t come up with any new beds for homeless students.
The city is looking for a suitable location, says spokesperson Manon Hoiting. That means she can’t say when there will actually be any new beds available. ‘We’re working hard on it. One of my colleagues will be scouting a location this Wednesday to see what the options are.’
Action group Shelter Our Students (SOS) has been tasked with taking stock of what is actually needed. ‘They disseminated a survey to find out who needs a new place to live right now’, says Hoiting. ‘That’s important, because we need to know how many beds we need in the new location.’
SOS spokesperson Marinus Jongman says 153 people have filled out the survey so far. Seven of these students have since found a permanent place to live. Another thirteen are staying at the city’s emergency housing, eighty students have found a place to sleep on their own, and fifty-three have been matched with someone with a spare bed or couch by SOS.
‘This is just a small part of the nearly eight hundred people who’ve signed up with us’, says Jongman. All in all, SOS has helped 250 students find a temporary place to live. SOS is staying in contact with them outside of the survey. Jongman says many of them have yet to find permanent place to stay.
The people who are lending students a spare bed can’t keep it up indefinitely, either: ‘They don’t want to kick their students out, but they won’t be able to accommodate them for much longer’, says Jongman.
According to Jongman, directing students to the current emergency housing – where Hoiting says there were approximately thirty beds available – is a difficult task. ‘We’d like to tell them to go there, but we don’t have daily updates on whether there are any beds available. Last Friday, for example, the emergency housing was full up. We’re not directing people to that.’
The survey also showed that some of the students have in fact stopped going to the city shelters altogether. ‘They’ve been there before and were told time and again that there was no room. They still need a place to stay, but they have no faith that they’ll find a bed in emergency housing.’
One more week
What we really need, says Jongman, is that extra location where everyone can go without having to worry about whether there’s room. ‘The need is still urgent. Every day, new students sign up with us. Not just new students, but also students who can’t stay with their original match and need a new one.’
Jongman is worried that if the city doesn’t open up a new location soon, people will soon be genuinely homeless. ‘We’re holding on by the skin of our teeth. At SOS, we might last another week, week and a half. If there’s no new location by then, there won’t be enough beds and we’ll be in trouble.’