The National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen and Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer are lashing out at the government in a new report today. The two argue that evictions of vulnerable families do not follow the rules.
The ombudsman and woman investigated, because they both received many complaints about evictions. They emphasize in their report that evictions are permitted in the Netherlands.
If someone has rent arrears, causes nuisance or, for example, drugs are found in a home, a mayor may decide to evict people from their home thanks to a special law.
That means that the people who live in such a house have to leave immediately. And that is where the government falls short, argue Van Zutphen and Kalverboer.
“I see that people are at risk of becoming homeless after they have been evicted from their homes and are considered responsible for finding new housing,” says the National Ombudsman.
‘Life becomes survival’
“If help does come from municipalities, families often end up in all kinds of temporary housing solutions for a long time,” he explains.
“Then their lives become survival and they cannot work on their future. These people experience a lot of stress and are then actually homeless. The government is insufficiently aware of this and therefore does not fulfill its duty of care.”
From dirty apartment to mobile home
The person who experienced this firsthand was Dora, who was left alone after her divorce. Together with her daughter Miriam (14), she had to leave her home due to rent arrears, after which she ended up in a dirty apartment that was declared uninhabitable.
“We found temporary shelter in a mobile home at friends’ campsite. It was small, but better than nothing,” says Dora.
Although she rang the bell everywhere, she was nowhere helped and ‘sent from pillar to post’. Eventually she moved in with her parents, a hundred kilometers from their hometown and with no prospect of a solution. Daughter Miriam gives her life a mark of 5.5 and does not dare to make friends. She doesn’t know how long she will stay with her grandparents. She also says that the municipality has never helped her.
‘Children seem invisible’
Children’s ombudswoman Kalverboer sees that children appear invisible during evictions. “Children are never talked to, they receive no support and they are not prepared for what the future will bring. The impact of evictions is especially great for children, so they should be extra well protected.”
Lisa, who has not lived at home since she was eleven, but in all kinds of youth care institutions, also says in the report of the Ombudsman and woman that she was not listened to.
She may have to leave the house where she lives with her two sons, because it is a ‘young people’s home’. “Finding a new home is difficult,” she says. “I try to make sure my children don’t suffer from it, but the stress and constant uncertainty do something to me.”
‘Always a bad experience’
Kalverboer and Van Zutphen want the government to fulfill its duty and help these families. This can be done by better embedding their rights in Dutch policy and regulations. Families should also have better access to information so that they know what is involved in an eviction.
“Evictions will always be a bad experience, but the government plays a crucial role in securing the future of these families,” says Van Zutphen.
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