Statement Blijf Groep about the findings of the survey ‘Perspectives’, that has been conducted by Ms J. Haanstra, former city alderman of Almere
Since the end of August 2015 Blijf Groep has been confronted with accusations in the press about circumstances of sheltering in our location IJmond: organized and forced prostitution, lack of money for living for the clients, unacceptable hygienic conditions in the shelter and lack of monitoring of the quality of the provisions in the shelter. The publications have not – or to a very small extent – been based on research done by the press itself. On the contrary, they have first and foremost been based on allegations coming from the same sources over and over again. The phrasing of these allegations has become more and more extreme in further publications.
Blijf Groep has invited these sources again and again to talk about their allegations, but only very recently they have accepted our repeated invitations to do so.
The attention in the press and by these same sources on several social media has now been going on for over three months. This has created a lot of commotion within our organization and has damaged both our clients, our workers and the reputation of the shelter movement as a whole.
When the allegations first came to the attention of Blijf Groep, we have not only invited the sources of the accusations to come forward. We have also conducted our own internal investigations and we have had an inspection by the Municipal Health Services, through the municipality of Haarlem, which is the responsible commissioner for the shelter location in IJmond. The aim of both was to assess the situation and to put an immediate end to any circumstances that might be directly harmful to our clients. Although some improvements (especially concerning hygiene) were made upon the inspection, no confirmation was found that the allegations made by the above-mentioned sources were correct.
In August Blijf Groep has also commissioned Ms J. Haanstra to conduct a survey on the causes of the mentioned allegations, as an independent external party. This was done in close consultation with the city council of Haarlem. Ms Haanstra has an excellent reputation as a knowledgeable , honorable and trustworthy politician that has been alderman in several municipalities. Ms Haanstra has indicated that she did not want to receive any remuneration for her activities, so as to be able to conduct her research in complete independence and autonomy.
Central to her research was the question what lessons could be learned from the events between June-July-August that might or might not have taken place or could be traced to Blijf Groep’s shelter location in IJmond. Ms Haanstra has based her findings on interviews with (ex) clients, workers and many others that were involved during this period. On this basis she has written recommendations concerning the procedures, methods and organization of the shelter. She also addresses each of the allegations that have been made in the media. None of the allegations were found to be true in the way described in the (social) media.
Ms Haanstra concludes that Blijf Groep has a valid system in place that consists of several ways in which clients can express their discontent or complaints. She notes that it is remarkable that the above-mentioned sources have not at any point in time used any of these possibilities, but chose to go to the media instead, thus violating the anonymity of (ex) clients by explicitly naming them. Moreover, during several months, they have made audio-tapes and photos of both clients and workers without their permission.
Conclusion Blijf Groep based on the survey ‘Perspectives’
Blijf Groep is fully aware that the work in her shelter locations has to be done with limited resources and possibilities and within restricted practical conditions. For the shelter in IJmond, this means that we have not yet been able to leave an older building, because our new ‘state of the art’ building is still under construction and not yet finished. We acknowledge that improvements can be made and that certain aspects such as hygiene and communal living necessitate more and continuous attention than in our newer and better equipped shelters. We also acknowledge that improvements can still be made in the way our colleagues do everything in their power to address the needs of individual clients to enhance their self-reliance and autonomy.
These improvements, however, have no relation to the alleged ‘serious abuses’ that have been made in the media. The results of this survey do confirm the findings of our own internal investigations.
Blijf Groep has done everything in its power to stick to a line of conduct based on our values and our policy on privacy and confidentiality for our clients. We will continue to do so in the best interest of our clients and workers.
It goes without saying that we sincerely hope that the forthcoming talks with our plaintiffs will prove to be the start of a constructive dialogue and will at least lead to a better understanding of each other’s intentions and of the actual situation at the shelter location.
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