Monique Wijnants was homeless for exactly one year. She ended up in the homeless shelter in Utrecht. There in the NoiZ (link), she had the time of her life. “I met some amazing people in that period, people I would otherwise never have known. The preconceptions concerning the homeless are really incorrect!”
NoiZ stands for Self-run Nighttime shelter (in Dutch). It is a part of the cluster of homeless shelters in Utrecht, the Netherlands (link). The cluster provides different types of support to the homeless as well as to others in vulnerable situations, including those who might quickly become homeless.
It is run by individuals who themselves have been homeless. They are truly experienced people who know exactly what it feels like to go through life without a roof over your head. The same was true for Monique. Nowadays, she has her own place to live yet she continues to dedicate her time as a volunteer, running the NoiZ for the vulnerable homeless.
Earning a place to sleep and a meal
“In 2017, I came into contact with the NoiZ when I had no place to live”, Monique says. “I was allowed to sleep in an accommodation for women and was assisted in my application for a homeless grant.”
In this extraordinary shelter, the homeless can work to earn a place to sleep and a meal to eat when they have no money. They take care of all sorts of facility management and domestic chores. They become a ‘bio’: a ‘beheerder in opleiding’, a trainee. When they have earned a guarantee of a place to sleep, they receive a ticket for a meal in the dining room of the NoiZ.
Every new guest must decide for themselves whether or not they want to become a ‘bio’; then they inform the counselors of their choice. Then the counselors decide whether someone is eligible. Three evaluations are planned, to see if an individual is ultimately able to proceed with all the further training.
Initially, Monique did cleaning chores when she started out as a ‘bio’. Other chores at the NoiZ include making the beds, doing the wash, or working in the dining room.
“Only when your ‘bio’ training has been completed, and you have moved out into an independent living space, are you eligible to become one of the custodians” according to Monique. “Only then do they give you the keys to the NoiZ.” The target for every guest at the NoiZ is to find themselves their own, stable home.
Monique begins her shift as a custodian by reading the logbook. What went down in the preceeding hours within the wall of the NoiZ? When all is peaceful, she then proceeds to register a new guest, but at other times, everything is rather hectic. Then she runs around from one guest to another getting things organized.
“All the NoiZ custodians have been homeless. Our advantage is that we really understand our guests. It does not matter if you were once a successful businessperson who suddenly lost everything, or someone who lived in the streets for a long time due to a psychiatric problem.”
““All the NoiZ custodians have been homeless. Our advantage is that we really understand our guests."
Sometimes, Monique says, individuals will come back for a visit when they have been given the key to their own home or room. “That really makes my day. I cannot imagine any better news than that. Especially after a truly hectic day at the NoiZ.”
Shelterbags are needed for those who avoid NoiZ
Monique knows only too well that there are people around Utrecht who are not ready to participate in the NoiZ system. “That is why I am so happy that the Sheltersuit Foundation got in touch with us and gave us Sheltersuits and Shelterbags. I have given away the first ones myself. Reactions from users have been really positive. Nice and warm, and comfortable!”