The robust homes have been designed to offer privacy and seclusion, Source: City of Ghent

Ghent helps homeless people readapt to mainstream living with mini homes

Ghent helps homeless people readapt to mainstream living with mini homes

This project is the first of its type in Belgium

The City of Ghent announced last week that it was about to begin an innovative initiative that has the goal of helping long-term homeless people readapt to living back in a home with the help of a guidance counsellor. What’s unusual about this project though are the homes themselves.

Called robuuste woningen, which translates to ‘robust homes’ in Flemish, the 11 buildings were specially built with this project in mind. Each one of them is only 36 square metres in size and represents a duplex. The focus of the architectural design of the houses is to provide feelings of comfort, privacy and seclusion.

The combination of small scale and privacy creates a small community that not only offers residents something to hold on to but also an opportunity to work on problems individually in peace and quiet,” explains Hafsa El-Bazioui, Alderman for Facility Management.

The houses are well insulated, but each house also has a bright seating area without any privacy. The front gardens are walled, and there is a shared garden that has separate walking paths.

Roof and guidance

The houses in the complex will be rented out to the first tenants in the coming months through the Belgian city’s social housing department.

Five women and six men with a long history of homelessness will move in. Each resident will receive social services support, plus there will be a site manager who is present during the day during the week and is the central point of contact for both residents and the rest of the neighbourhood.

The aim of the project is to gradually habituate people who have become chronically homeless to feel and function once again as members of the mainstream community.

The environment is purposefully low-stimulus and non-disruptive for that purpose.

The project is the first of its kind in Belgium, although the concept of ‘robust homes’ was first conceived in Denmark. The initiative is part of Ghent’s ROOF action plan, which operates on a policy of providing housing to homeless people before tackling their other specific needs and issues.

The overall ambition of the city is to end the phenomenon of homelessness locally by 2040.



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