If you live in Middelkerke you have probably seen him. The man in the picture below was homeless in the streets of Middelkerke and spent his nights in the launderette situated in Kerkstraat or, if it turned out to be possible, in the homeless shelter “het doorgroeihuis” located in Ostend.
His name is Rémi, 72 years old when this photo was taken, and he became homeless due to personal circumstances. A detail that is important in this story is that he is a Canadian citizen and was detained in Belgium following the loss of his papers.
You may think that it is an easy situation to get away from, but the help he received was limited and since he had no papers he could not afford anything and so his life got stuck in the streets of our city.
In the Bethel church, we were asked to pay a little attention to this man. Finally, a lady of our church took care of him, because she could not bear to see a man of his age living on the streets so far away from his homeland.
This lady made every effort to keep this man off the streets by providing him with care, offering him secure accommodation, and so on.
She also mobilised several people to help him with clothes and practical matters. But that is not the end of the story. She also contacted all possible authorities in Middelkerke and Ostend to ensure that Rémi could be helped. She contacted the embassy to get Rémi’s papers in order so that he could return to his country of origin and his family. And contact was made with his family in Canada to inform them of the situation and to provide potential assistance when Rémi would return to Canada.
On Thursday 4th February 2021, very early in the morning, Rémi, a 72-year-old man, homeless in the streets of Middelkerke, was handed over, fully looked after, at the airport in Zaventem to a representative of the Canadian embassy. On Friday, news arrived that he had arrived safely in Montréal-Canada and would have to remain there in quarantine for another 14 days before he could see his family again.
So if you are wondering where this man has gone, well, here is the answer.
We would like to thank all those who helped to ensure that this man could return to his home and his family.
First and foremost, the lady who completely gave her all to make this happen in a very short time. But also all the volunteers who helped with the care, transport, purchases and many other things. A few self-employed people, who regardless of the general difficult times in which we live, have provided this man with food, drink and supplies while he lived on the streets.
We certainly do not want to forget the social services of Middelkerke and the social services of Ostend, which all did their share as well.
And it may seem superfluous, but a big thank you to the Embassy of Canada in Brussels who gave an extra push to make this happen.