Official homelessness figures fell last year, but shelters report helping more people
The number of homeless people in the Netherlands decreased last year for the third year in a row, though homeless shelters reported helping more people. Last year, almost 27,000 Netherlands residents were homeless, compared to 32,000 the year before, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported.
For its annual homelessness figures, CBS adds the number of people known in the registers of temporary shelters and the probation service and an estimate of the number of people who do not appear on these registers but also don’t have a permanent place of residence. Last year’s decrease came mainly from the latter group. Homeless people are better visible to aid agencies while the total group is becoming smaller, according to CBS.
CBS counts someone as homeless if they sleep outside, with friends or family, in temporary shelters, or in cars, squatted buildings, or holiday homes. The number of homeless people in the Netherlands increased from 18,000 in 2009 to 39,000 in 2018. The CBS figures only include adults between the ages of 18 and 65 and don’t include undocumented migrants.
The composition of homeless people in the Netherlands has remained virtually the same in recent years. About 40 percent of homeless people weren’t born in the Netherlands. The vast majority, 81 percent, are men. The share of men decreased slightly compared to the 84 percent in 2020. The share of young homeless people up to age 27 also decreased slightly, from 23 percent in 2020 to 19 percent last year.
Last year, 38 percent of homeless people were registered in one of the four large cities, up from 36 percent in 2020. Shelters in Amsterdam and The Hague confirmed the image that there are more homeless people in the large cities.
“In Amsterdam, about 10,000 people are homeless. They live on the streets, in boats, or under bridges. We see that number increasing. People who were previously able to make ends meet have now become homeless for economic reasons,” Sebastiaan van Oostveen of the Boerhaave transient hotel in Amsterdam Oost, which shelters about 60 homeless people for up to six months, told NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “The best way to combat homelessness is with a home, so we must fight for that. More places to live with affordable rent!”
“We see many more people living on the street. The pressure on our day and night shelters is increasing,” director Douwe van Riet of HVO-Querido, which offers shelter to homeless people in the Amsterdam and Haarlem region, told ANP. “Young people under the age of 18 and over 65 and undocumented immigrants are not included [in the CBS figures], and the problem is growing among them.”
He, too, attributes the homelessness problem to the Netherlands’ shortage of affordable housing. “There are no places to live, and this is reinforced by the fact that social security has been reduced. The costs of living have increased. People can no longer make ends meet,” Van Riet said. He noted an increase in mid-income people without a home. “When people get divorced, two homes are needed to accommodate the family, but there is no money for that, so one of the family members ends up on the street.”
Straat Consulaat, which represents the interests of homeless people in The Hague, wants CBS to use a broader definition of homelessness to better represent the actual situation. A spokesperson told ANP that Straat Consulaat saw more people who ended up on the street because they couldn’t find affordable housing and there was no place in the shelter. “In the past, you could sometimes provide care within a day in an urgent situation, Now, young people wait at least three weeks for a first conversation. Moreover, they then end up on a waiting list.”