This year I was lucky to be allowed to be able to use the winter shelter in Amsterdam on the Zekeringstraat for the duration of 10 weeks. This was a sort of a tented camp with a long drafty corridor to which 3 long corridors with so-called protocabins were attached. A short corridor for women and 2 long ones for men. 1 men's hall accommodated around 100 beds. Maximum 6 bunk beds for 12 people. 4 foldable camp beds are added during the busy period.
Difference from freezing period and normal
In the winter shelter there are 2 periods of crowdedness the normal period in which it does not freeze and the freezing period in which the police and street workers, and what else is there for control staff, brings the homeless to the winter shelter.
2 and a half toilets (because in one toilet the lighting was broken) for 100 people in the freezing period while in the same cabin 4 toilets, 1 urinal and 2 hand sinks were closed because they were intended for the staff while I never seen anyone go and of which I am almost certain that it was not used. Eventually (after the freezing period) they became available for the (yes how shall I call this?) Clients?
Because there were only 3 toilets for 100 people in the freezing period, you would stand in 1 cm of urine within 1 hour. This of course sticks to the shoes with you carry along the corridor to the dorms.
Unlike the toilets, there were as many as 8 showers and a number of them were added later to the smoking cage. Why, instead of showers, no toilets were installed, I don't know, this would have been more logical. If you wanted a clean shower, you’ll have to come early because otherwise you would end up feeling (mind wise) worse.
Steel bunk beds that were so rickety that when the upper turned around the lower awoke from a an earthquake. In my experience, this was the cause of 25% of the arguments and disagreements. Another 25% of the annoyments were for phone calls in the room.
It was not there, a man was being driven around on an office chair.
Visitation or body search
I personally experienced this as very offensive. Sometimes I was hardly touched, usually normal, but sometimes my crotch was also touched. The things you were allowed to take in had to be in see-through bags so that everyone (including potential thieves) could see what you had with you. I thought this was completely ridiculous because if I wanted to bring something in, I would certainly have succeeded.
Some guards walked in combat gear complete with combat gloves.
Well-meant. But the ground-surface area per bed did not differ from the large bedrooms. I don't understand why people called this care rooms because there was just no care.
Snoring sleep apnea
Again good for 25% of the argument and disagreements. Why not place snorers in 1 room?
(means, transsexual's, gays, lesbian's, bisexual’s)
There is no special arrangement for LGBs. A transsexual slept in a room with 11 men.
There was no possibility to open a window because the window handles were missing. Upon inquiry this turned out to be "burglary prevention" How someone can break in from the inside is also a question to me, and what is there to steel?
The mattresses were covered with a plastic, I suspect PVC, at room temperature the plasticizers spread a chemical odor. What this health wise means remains to be seen.
A man who has lived in Spain for 20 years is denied access because he has no regional ties.
The winter shelter irrevocably evokes associations with a prison. Completely fenced with 2 meter high barbed wire fences. Within this fence a special 4x4 cage is fenced off for smoking. About 8 searchlights focused on the tent camp. Many surveillance cameras. Alarm on the outside doors. Heavy automatic door closers on every door. Too much and constant surveillance. At 11 o'clock in the evening 3 guards storm into the room to check the heating.
I can imagine that people who come from a refugee camp or a prison do not feel comfortable there and then I express myself very mildly.
I can be brief about that, you only have it in the toilet and not even that with 3 toilets.
Dining room, tent
It consisted of a huge tent with rows of benches without a backrest and tables.
No decoration on the walls. 2 TVs high on the wall. No board games or other things that could entertain you.
Attention and guidance
Apart from Andre (a cheerful, friendly, young social worker) none of the staff or coordinators came to me. I have never seen this happen to others. The only one who did this often and in clear conviction was Andre (thank you Andre for the pep talk when I needed it)
I had several conversations with employees in which I doubted their level of education. I was amazed at the lack of knowledge about aid services, procedures and access criteria.
The question is whether there is room for improvement and whether we want to deal with people in this way.
Do you have any remarks or do you think we can do better then please respond?