Salvation Army: Municipal budget cuts will lead to more homelessness

Salvation Army (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/A.E.v.Kooten, Ermelo)Salvation Army (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/A.E.v.Kooten, Ermelo)

Municipalities throughout the Netherlands are giving the Salvation Army less and less time and money to help people who are or threaten to become homeless, according to an internal investigation by the charity. This will lead to more homelessness, the organization warned in a letter to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, NOS reports.

The Salvation Army runs homeless shelters, and helps people who were previously or currently homeless or threaten to become homeless. They help people with paying their bills, finding places to be during the day, and offer help with addictions and psychological problems. The organization has a contract with most Dutch municipalities.

The organization's investigation showed that the number of hours municipalities give the Salvation Army to help someone has halved since the Social Support Act was implemented in 2015. The rates for this care have also fallen. There are major differences in the care offered between municipalities, Salvation Army director Cornel Vader said to NOS. "But across the country, there is a perception that care needs to be shorter, less intensive and cheaper."

As an outpatient residential counselor, Christa Overeem is noticing the consequences. People come back to the Salvation Army more often, even after the care process has ended. "They have lost control of their lives because they left care too quickly", she said to the broadcaster. "We get the budget for a certain period of time from the municipality. The intention is that people will eventually be able to do it themselves again, but in practice we find that they sometimes find this very difficult."

Sometimes the Salvation Army manages to get more hours from the municipality, by objecting. But this causes administrative red tape, according to the organization. In its letter to the Tweede Kamer, the Salvation Army calls for more care and guidance for this vulnerable group, to prevent even more people ending up on the street. The organization hopes that the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports will  release more money.

In August, Statistics Netherlands reported that the number of homeless people in the Netherlands more than doubled over the past decade, from 17,800 homeless adults in 2009 to 39,300 last year.