People of South Station

Source: Wojcik, L. (2021)
Source: Wojcik, L. (2021)

I have to kill someone!”, he shouted three times and at that moment he took a pocket knife from the inner pocket of his coat. I was terrified, but that changed rapidly. Excessive alcohol and drug use made this man completely mentally ill. He started yelling and saying that he stabbed a man with a knife 60 times in the heart once. Miserable man, I thought. While he was babbling, I looked around me and observed the walls of the South Station of Brussels. There was a spot, completely black and covered in ashes. People burned his old tent, he told me when I asked him what happened. How sad is the fact that people hurt, hurt people even more instead of helping them? It was a war, a war of surviving. 

On a rainy Saturday, I joined a group of four volunteers who are weekly handing out food to homeless people nearby the South Station in Brussels. I did not know what to expect, what to say and how to behave. The weather made it even worse; it was cold and the clouds were grey. We had a small cart with 5 thermos jugs with coffee and 2 with thee, 3 bags with sandwiches and other food, a large can with vegetable soup, and some bags with clothes. An elderly woman in our group gave me some stir sticks and a plastic bag of sugar and I directly asked why we need so much sugar. “You will see why when we begin with our tour.”. 

A handsome man

A good-looking man started happily yelling at us. He was extremely delighted, and we handed him some coffee. I was told that he was homeless, and I was shocked because he looked like he has a warm home with a loving family. The man had a pair of dark jeans and black sneakers. He had a beige shirt and a leather jacket. I could not believe that he, this good-looking Bulgarian man, is homeless. I know he was Bulgarian because I man in our group told me this. He was all the time at the same spot, living in a small built-up camp of tents with other men. He helped us distribute food to the other men who looked less fit. I do not know why, but they seemed so happy. Someone was sleeping under his tent, the other man was laughing. Waste was lying everywhere as well as beer cans, rolling because of the wind.

A man with a book

I came across an older man. He was sitting on a piece of cardboard, covered with a blanket, in the middle of a busy bus station. He sat there minding his own business like it does not annoy him at all that he is homeless. It touched me and I decided to ask something for the first time today.

Source: Wojcik, L. (2021)

Hello sir, how is your day?”, I asked a bit shy because I am very introverted, and I was shocked myself that I dared to open my mouth. He looked up at me and because his mouth mask was a little under his nose, I was able to see that he was smiling at me. I smiled back and squatted a little closer to him.

Do you want some coffee or thee, sir?”, I said to start a conversation. He nodded, so I stood up and brought some coffee. Coffee is always a good trick to break the ice. He was reading a book before I interrupted him, so I asked what he was reading after giving him the cup with coffee.

A police fiction novel.” I saw that this man was educated. I never witnessed a homeless man reading something and in this case, it was actually a thick novel. Next to him, I saw more books. 

After he finished his coffee, he told me his story. His name was Gerard, and he was 65 years old. Before he ended up on the street, he was a truck driver. Gerard was actually from France and more specifically from Dordogne. He had a wife and two daughters, but after their divorce, they stayed with their mother. I did not want to go into detail because I felt that it was a delicate subject. He lived for a while with his friend in Brussels, but they had some financial problems and were not able to pay the rent for their home. They were dropped out. After that, he ended up on the street, on the bus stop of the busiest station of Belgium. He had no papers, no identification, and because of that, he was not able to be helped. That conversation really touched me. He was such a kind man, but due to a financial problem, he was condemned not to have a home. It scared me, everyone could be him. Everyone could have a problem at work and especially today during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Source: Wojcik, L. (2021)

I was a serial killer.

A man was standing against the wall. His head was red like a tomato, and he was shaking. Cans and bottles of all sorts of alcohol were rolling on the ground, next to his place. When asked if he wanted some soup, we got an answer that he had enough. It was true, he had a bag full of stuff to eat. One member of my group began to talk to him. It seemed that he is familiar with him and I heard that he is here every week. During this visit, a taxi pulled over and a Moroccan man stepped outside. He thanked us for our help, saying that he also works in another organization that is helping people on the street.

I distribute food with my taxi.”, he said. The conversation with him gave me a warm feeling. “We collect food that is nearly expired from supermarkets.“, he added.

The homeless man began to shout that he wants to kill someone and that his wife cheated on him. Poor man I thought. I did not know what the reason for his homelessness was. He pulled out a pocket knife and from then his story became more drastic. He told us that he killed a lot of people, that he was in prison, and some other terrifying things. Somebody in my group said to me that he narrates this story every week. Nobody knows if it is true because he is usually drunk.

A group of tourists

Source: Wojcik, L. (2021)

We came across a group of French-speaking men. Typical tourists, I thought. They were standing there with suitcases, wearing casual clothes. I was jealous of them because I also wanted to go on holiday. Because of Covid-19, I was not able to go on it, this year, and I really had enough of Belgium and this depressing weather. I was waiting when one of them will come and ask for directions to a hotel or something, and I was surely surprised when one of them asked where the nearest shelter for homeless people was. I could not believe that they were homeless. It is so surprising for me that they looked so good, one of them had these Nike Jordan shoes and I know from my brother that these shoes are expensive. I was glad for them that they had shoes, but still, it was unusual to see someone without a job, wearing brand shoes.

Source: Wojcik, L. (2021)


We were surrounded by a group of boys, they were my age. We handled them some food because they looked terribly hungry. They asked for so much sugar. I looked around, and I found out that they had a bunch of food, but why were they hungry then, I asked myself. Sandwich bags were everywhere, in their tents, on their blankets, behind the heaps of cardboard, and so on. Because it was so crowded I distanced myself, giving them some space to take what they need.

Can I have more sugar?”, a man shouted.

The people, who I was with, gave the group some clean socks and caps. Behind the crowded trolley with food, the young men were handing out little plastic bags to each other. Some of them took it with their finger and sniffed it, others licked his finger with this white stuff on it. I knew that it was the drugs. It was at this moment when I realized why they wanted so much sugar and food. I heard once that when you use drugs, you will have a huge hunger and sweet craving afterward. After 10 minutes one of the guys started an argument with the other one. We took a step back because the argument was escalating, and we felt that we have to go away before they begin to fight. I looked into their eyes, all red, full of anger. They had something sad in their eyes. I had so many questions, but it was not the right time to ask them. 

After this rainy, frigid, and emotional day I realized what homelessness is. I realized how difficult and cruel this life is. I realized that the smallest things can alter your path completely and that is terrifying if you think about it. Furthermore, I saw how lonely these people are and how they even enjoy the shortest small talk. We complain every day about the fact that we are stuck in our homes due to this pandemic, but we do not realize how it is to be stuck on the street. I grasped how lucky I am that I have a shelter where I can cover during a storm. This day also made me very sad because I wanted to help them all, but I was not able to do that. I entered the South Station of Brussels and went to the platform where my train to Ghent was already waiting for me. While leaving Brussels I truly hope that these people, the people of the South Station, will find a home because everyone deserves shelter above the head even though they have done something wrong in their past. I wish them all the best, but no one knows how life will go on. No one knows what will come tomorrow. Thinking about all this, I saw the sun break through the dark clouds. Everything will be good, I hope.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top