by Koen Elzerman
Students Joeri Jörg and Koen Elzerman initiated a place where people can leave items (clothes, books, sleeping-bags and domestic products) which they do not need anymore, while other people still might be happy with it. In this manner people can contribute to the daily-struggle that people have to cope with their limited economic situation. Amsterdam North is a district with many socio-economic problems, and the exchange closet delivers a micro-economic service for those who need it.
Similar to this alternative form of recycling, the focus lies on informing people about homelessness and addiction as important societal issues. The city of Amsterdam wants to initiate new asylums spread over the city, but history has shown some bad examples of starting such an asylum. The NIMBY-effect (‘Not In My Backyard’) can ruin the relation between asylum and neighbourhood, while people rarely realise that the asylum fulfils an important part of the societal needs. Above that, the line between having a house and homelessness is not that big as people might think. It does not take very much to lose your house and become homeless, especially in Amsterdam North.
The crew exists of people who have lived on the street, have been addicted or have worked in prostitution. They concentrate on telling their personal stories to the visitors of the Mosveld market, the place where the closet is situated. Goal is to decrease the NIMBY-feelings which people have in relation to these marginalised groups of society.
The launch on Saturday 13th of June showed that people respond very positive on this form of interaction. Most of them understood the importance of facilities for homeless and addicted people, and several people spoke out their enthusiasm about the project. One of the strengths of the closet is that it does not only serve the homeless and addicted people: it also benefits the local residents and the deprived neighbourhood around the Mosveld market.
Pictures by Bert Elzerman.
Publications in the media (NoordNieuws (2), De Echo and Het Parool), widespread enthusiasm by project partners, the city district of Amsterdam North and housing corporation Ymere, social partners and the local residents form the basis of a long term continuation of the project.
After the successful launch of the closet, both students are now in discussion with several social partners, in order to ensure the sustainability of the intervention. The students will be related to the project until these negotiations result in a societal coalition which can maintain the exchange closet as a social facility, embedded in the neighbourhood.
You can also view the final presentation of the ‘Addicted to the City’ case at the Amsterdam City Hall last week.