Aram from Armenia sits in the living room. I know him from the Dutch classes in the Ubuntuhuis. He comes over to join me. We speak Dutch. I don’t know his flight story and I find it very difficult to ask him. Recently I met Aram in front of the library, where he had been studying all afternoon. He told me he lives in the Netherlands for 5 years now, but the first few years he lacked the concentration to learn the language. I don’t have the heart to ask him possible painful questions.
So, first we just have a chat and then he tells me about Toevlucht, where he now sleeps since 2 months. Toevlucht is a night shelter and is the result of a personal initiative.
Toevlucht is supported by churches in the city and is made possible with the help of a lot of volunteers. At 8.30 pm they are allowed in, at 7.00 am they get a wake-up call and at 8.00 am they have to leave again. They can leave their belongings in Toevlucht, Aram has a bag with clothes there.
A few days ago they told him he can only sleep in Toevlucht 3 weeks a month. This night he has a bed through a ‘garantstelling’ – he can hardly pronounce the word. But he’ll have to see tomorrow whether there’s a bed available for the day after. ‘But why? Why?,’ I ask. He shrugs. It’s the rules, they told him.
He tells me this quietly, he is not in a panic. I ask: ‘Do you have any friends to stay with?’ Well, he does have a friend, but he cannot live there because it could give trouble with the counsel. So well, that’s it.
I hardly dare to ask him this question, but I ask nevertheless: ‘Have you ever slept out on the streets?’ No, he never slept outside and seeing the temperatures, it wouldn’t be very wise considering his health. I find it most difficult not to offer him a sleeping space on my couch right away. But I really cannot do that. He doesn’t seem to expect this from me at all. He just wants to share his story.
‘That’s life,’ he says, and spreads his arms.