Sometimes people get left behind due to an accumulation of problems. What happens when increasing debts leave you and your family without a roof over your head? Or when you have a mental illness or an addiction? What if you’re being taken advantage of and have nowhere to turn?
HVO-Querido is a care organisation operating in Amsterdam, Diemen, Amstelveen and Haarlem. We offer shelter, supervised housing and daytime activities for people who (temporarily) cannot get by on their own. We provide support to help them tackle their problems themselves. HVO-Querido operates based on the view that every person is able to live an independent life. Practically speaking, this means we provide various types of support for our clients. We help people get groceries, for example, or figure out their personal administration so that they can get on with life. Some people live long-term at one of our facilities; others have a home of their own and are given other forms of support, for example to help them find (volunteer) work.
Everyone has special talents and deserves to be able to discover them. This may take time. HVO-Querido helps clients overcome boundaries and get ahead, preferably on-site – i.e., at our clients’ homes. And preferably with the assistance of the people close to them – their parents, friends, exercise buddies and peers. We call this informal care. In the case of clients who live an isolated life, we help them come into contact with their neighbourhood and family.
HVO-Querido has existed in its current form since 2000. The Vereeniging Hulp voor Onbehuisden (‘Association for Helping the Homeless’) or HVO was founded in 1904. The Querido foundation is named after psychiatrist Arie Querido (1901-1983). Starting in the 1930s, he began to bring the social side of psychiatry to people’s attention and as such, created the foundation for our current outpatient mental healthcare system.
Of all times
People who had mental problems that prevented them from participating in society used to be cared for in institutions, far away from the civilised world. These days, people with mental vulnerabilities live at the centre of society, and that’s precisely where HVO-Querido does its work. Some of the problems we deal with currently did not exist in that form a century ago, like addictions to substances such as XTC or to online gambling. But other problems, such as human trafficking, anger issues and addiction in general did exist then, though perhaps they were referred to differently. There will always be some people in society who (temporarily) need a safety net. With our knowledge regarding psychiatry and our experience with sheltering homeless people, we are able to offer such individuals support during their recovery in a professional, pragmatic manner.
They were known as the castaways of society, the men, women and children who sought refuge with the Association for Helping the Homeless (HVO) in Amsterdam. Everyone was welcome: homeless people, prostitutes, tramps, ex-convicts, unwed mothers, families that had been evicted. They were given temporary shelter and help to become virtuous citizens able to take care of themselves.
Becoming homeless: it could happen to anyone of us. The cause differs: a divorce and/or the issues resulting from it, an addiction, no safety net. Every homeless person has their own story. The thing that all of our clients have in common is the fact that they are vulnerable. They are in no way pathetic or without prospects. Given the right support, most of them are able to find their way. HVO-Querido supports people in their quest to be independent. The profiles below are intended to give a good idea of the variety of people we shelter and support. For privacy reasons, their names and backgrounds have been altered so that they will not be recognised.
Jacqueline (41) began studying for a degree in medicine after she completed secondary school. Her father and uncle were doctors, and she wanted to continue the family tradition. However, in her third year at university, her studies came to be too much for her. Jacqueline fell out of balance to the extent that she had to be committed. She was diagnosed as suffering from severe manic depression. After two years, her treatment was finished and she was released from the clinic. She attempted to live on her own, aided by medication, but that didn’t last long. Luckily, Jacqueline was given a spot in one of HVO-Querido’s assisted living facilities. She is doing well there. Through her supervisor, she found volunteer work in a restaurant. She keeps track of her fellow residents’ chores and handles grocery shopping on Mondays. Her parents stop by every week, and she has joined a theatre group with her sister. She visits museums, goes to concerts, and the like. Of course, she would have preferred to become a doctor, but she has regained her balance in life.
John (52) is a real Amsterdam man, a jack-of-all trades and master of none. He worked in the hospitality industry, on trams, and as cab driver. He lived a wild life, and doesn’t regret any of it – except for his drug use. When staying with his best friend, he stole that friend’s PlayStation to be able to buy drugs. His mother and ex-wife had given up on him too, so he left the country for a while. When he returned to the Netherlands, he had nothing left. These days, John lives on the north side of the city in one of HVO-Querido’s temporary housing units. He’s almost managing to make ends meet on his own now, apart from some aid for managing his monetary affairs and restoring contact with his family. He still uses drugs sometimes, but they no longer control his whole life. He teaches elderly people how to use the Internet at the local community centre; he always had a knack for computers. He recently went to an Ajax football match with his brother, and made it home without any issues for the first time in years.
Magda (26) could not make ends meet to support her and her son in her hometown in Romania – even while working two jobs. In order to make ends meet, she sometimes worked as a sex worker in the city. A friend of a friend told her that there was a lot of money to be made in clubs in the Netherlands. She went with him to Amsterdam, and ended up in an illegal brothel. Her passport was taken from her, and the owner threatened to tell her family about her work whenever she refused customers. She had to hand over most of the money she made. After a few weeks, she succeeded in running away. A passer-by took her to the local police station. Once she made it to one of HVO-Querido’s shelters, she was finally able to catch her breath. After talking to a social worker and a lawyer, she has decided to report the men who have taken advantage of her. She will be allowed to stay at the shelter while the court case is pending. Magda is thinking about building a new life for herself and her child in the Netherlands once the ordeal is over.
Rayan (19) is a smooth talker; you have to be when you live on the streets. Rayan’s father left his family to return to Morocco when Rayan was eight. His mother struggled with having to raise four children on her own. Rayan was a troublemaker and was expelled from school, and then from a second school too. He stopped going to the third after a month or so. He hung out in town with his friends and robbed tourists whenever he needed cash. After many different brushes with the law, he was assigned to a youth institution. He wanted to leave that place as soon as possible, because the rules were very strict. Nowadays, Rayan is completing his education to be able to make his own money in the future. He is interested in becoming a security guard. He lives with two other boys in a house with a shared kitchen and bathroom. Their supervisor stops by every week and helps them be self-sufficient and do things like keep their room clean and eat healthily. Rayan is also competing in the Dutch Street Cup football competition, with other boys just like him. The referee is very strict, but Rayan understands why – after all, the man has to manage a field full of short-fused young men.
Albert (68) was committed to a psychiatric hospital for many years. He did so well there that he was released to live on his own once more. However, being by oneself all day is hard for all of us. He contacted one of the hospital’s nurses to help him find something to do. They settled on Het Vestzak, HVO-Querido’s daytime activity centre for elderly people. Albert visits three times a week. He chats with the supervisors and the people who have come that day over a cup of coffee, does some work in the herb garden, and he’s taken up drawing once again; something he took a lot of pleasure in back when he worked as a graphic artist. But his favourite part of coming to the activity centre is fellow client Piet’s freshly baked rolls.
Danny (30) and Anisha (28) worked the night shift at Schiphol International Airport and were thus able to save enough to travel to Suriname, where Anisha’s family lives. When their son Imro had just been born, Anisha was working at a hairdresser’s, and her mother would come watch Imro. After Anisha lost her job, her mother came by daily. Thus, it was a huge shock to everyone when Anisha’s mother died. Anisha had lost her main support, practically speaking as well; she didn’t really know how to take care of Imro. Once Danny lost his job as well, the couple was no longer able to afford the rent. Energy bills and letters from the housing corporation went unopened. Eight months later, they were evicted. The GGD helped them come into contact with HVO-Querido. They were given a small rental apartment to start over, and a supervisor who would stop by twice a week to provide parenting support and teach them how to manage their money. After a while, Danny found a new job, giving them more room financially. The couple was then assigned to social housing in the west part of the city via an exit programme for social aid and shelters. It will take them some time to get used to a new neighbourhood with new neighbours, and for Imro to make friends at his new school, but feeling like they are able to manage on their own once more means the world to them.
Art helps people discover what they are good at and share emotions: for example, through music, poetry, or theatre. HVO-Querido clients and their family, friends, neighbours and treatment supervisors recently put on a performance at Theater Bellevue, playing music by Björk, Miles Davis and Bach, and they managed to get the audience to sing along to George Michael’s ‘Freedom’. This performance was part of Kwik (an abbreviation of the Dutch phrase ‘Kijk wat ik kan’, i.e. ‘Look at what I can do’), a musical project organised by HVO-Querido and the Eiwerk foundation.
HVO-Querido offers all sorts of daytime activities in collaboration with other organisations, such as:
Clients have different needs depending on their situation. As such, we adapt the care we provide to their individual needs, with different care programmes for different target audiences, such as: adults with mental illnesses, young people who are experiencing difficulty living on their own, homeless people with addiction problems, victims of human trafficking, families that are psychologically vulnerable, etc. Within each programme, clients work on their own objectives, which vary widely; for example, to be able to live alone after spending some time in assisted living, to be able to return to society after having been imprisoned (without recidivism), to restore the relationship with their (former) partner and children, or to find a worthwhile use for their time.
Problems tend to accumulate, but solutions do so too. Once clients manage to live more self-sufficiently, their social life usually also improves.
A large part of our work consists of providing supervised housing. We offer clients a safe life in an environment that is as normal as can be, preferably in a home of their own, with supervision if needed. Many clients start off in a group home or satellite housing and switch to living on their own later on. Satellite housing is independent, but close to a facility where HVO-Querido provides 24-hour support. We also have various facilities for long-term assisted living.
HVO-Querido clients all have a supervisor. With them, they create a plan for the future, with the aim of recovering fully or at least partially, to the extent that they are able. This future plan contains their objectives and the way they would like to achieve those objectives, as well as any agreements made and the planned duration of the process. Supervisors help clients discover what they are good at and provide support for day-to-day matters, such as making a doctor’s appointment. When things are tough, supervisors provide comfort, a listening ear, and encouragement. Many clients also have a buddy, often a family member or neighbour, who stops by and goes outside with them frequently.
People who are going to be part of an HVO-Querido care programme but do not yet have a place to live can turn to one of our temporary shelters. Our shelters are geared towards people who have lost their way and cannot get their life back on track without proper support, such as homeless people, victims of human trafficking, prostitutes, or refugees. HVO-Querido also implements the so-called ‘bed-bath-bread’ scheme in Amsterdam on behalf of the municipality, for asylum seekers whose applications have been denied.
Amsterdam is divided up into 22 districts. They all have their own community care networks, which HVO-Querido is a part of. Along with other organisations in the city, we provide extra support for people who are living alone, but are experiencing difficulties due to mental and/or socio-economic problems.
Other means of support
We provide support for vulnerable citizens in various ways. For example, we help sex workers improve their health and their social position. We also try to fight sexual exploitation and violence. We provide forensic care for people who need to create a new life for themselves after having been incarcerated or come in contact with the law in some other way. We provide shelter for homeless people during the winter months, among other things, and our mobile team helps them find shelter at crisis centres managed by the GGD.
HVO-Querido helps people build a life for themselves. We stimulate clients to find a worthwhile use for their time that suits them. Almost all of our clients succeed in finding an activity that improves their quality of life. For example, they might start off with a weekly visit to a community centre and end up doing volunteer work. We collaborate with dozens of organisations in the area that offer volunteer work opportunities and daytime activities. In due time, some of our clients are able to switch from volunteer work to paid work.
The people we work for are the face of HVO-Querido. We help around 3,300 people each year. Their perseverance and will to make something of their lives is inspiring, and with their experience, they in turn are able to do a great deal for people who are in a similar situation. As such, we stimulate clients to develop themselves further and support one another.
We employ around 1,000 staff members, divided over 50 different facilities in Amsterdam, Diemen and Haarlem, to provide shelter and support. They create future plans with their clients and help them accomplish those plans. They do all sorts of things to help make this happen, such as organising a neighbourhood barbecue, finding sponsors for sports events, buying groceries or finding their clients suitable daytime activities. Where others might give up, our employees have faith in their clients’ talents. This enthusiasm is what energises them. At HVO-Querido, employees are given plenty of career support and opportunities to expand their expertise. We allow people in the lower ranks of the organisation to carry as many responsibilities as possible, so that they are able to engage their creative, enterprising qualities.
Moreover, there are hundreds of volunteers who work at our many facilities. They support clients for catering projects, serve as hosts or hostesses at meeting centres, give music lessons, go exercise with clients, take care of transportation, maintain vegetable gardens with them, and so on. Without their efforts and commitment, HVO-Querido would not exist.
Entrepreneurship plays an important part within HVO-Querido. In these times of spending cuts and less government support, we lock hands with partner organisations to provide each and every client with what they need. We work with Mentrum, the Salvation Army, Spirit, the Volksbond, GGD, GGZ InGeest, housing corporations and municipalities, among other organisations. Please go to our website and/or Facebook page to find examples of partner activities we have engaged in.
Helping out at a care farm
Many of our clients need something to occupy them. Their supervisors help them find something that suits them, in consultation with any people who may be treating them. Two large organisations we work with to achieve this are Arkin and GGZ InGeest. Helping out at a care farm appeals to many of our clients; they get to spend their time working in the open air, dealing with plants and animals. In some cases, they are even able to transition from helping out to doing paid work. The Breedijk Hoeve farm in Waterland-Oost, Lindenhoff farm in Baambrugge and Kwekerij Osdorp nursery in Amsterdam are just some of the care farms that our clients help out at.
The people we work for have the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen. However, their vulnerable position often prevents them from standing up for themselves. By providing education and allowing them to participate in social activities, we try to change the negative image people often have of our target audience.
Part of having a strong (legal) position is having a say in the care one receives. Clients are always free to talk to their supervisor if they feel that anything is amiss. If the parties involved cannot figure the issue out together, they can then turn to an external confidential counsellor, or the complaints committee of the POA (Platform Opvanginstelling Amsterdam, i.e. the platform for Amsterdam housing institutions).
There are various ways in which the quality of the care and support provided by HVO-Querido is monitored. There are resident committees who discuss daily life at our facilities with the respective facilities’ management teams. There are care counsels who monitor the substance of our assistance. The client board helps management examine the organisation’s functioning as a whole. And last but certainly not least, we ask our clients for their honest opinions; an independent agency conducts a satisfaction survey every two years.
Would you like to contribute?
You can contribute to our work in various ways as either a private individual or as part of an organisation or company. For example, you can donate money or lend your expertise. Meeting our clients and employees can also be helpful to your company, because it provides a broader view of the world around you. Please transfer any donations you’d like to make to account number NL05 ABNA 0467 7857 83, addressed to Stichting HVO-Querido (‘the HVO-Querido foundation’). If you would like to know more about ways in which we might be able to help one another, please contact our fundraiser, Maarten Vermaas, by calling 06 2111 0927 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit the ‘Helpen’ (‘Helping us’) tab on www.hvoquerido.nl.
If you have questions regarding any of our services, our branches, our care programmes, or anything else, please contact us: