Villa Voortman is a non-residential meeting place, which sprung up from the Ghent-Sleidinge Psychiatric Centre. Since 2010, Voortman has aimed to provide a solution to the blind spots of regular psychiatric care. It focuses on a growing group of people with dual diagnosis and multiple problems, who are confronted with the dwindling reception and care capacity of the regular and often over-specialist care network. This group is seen as too disturbed psychologically to be accepted for addiction support, but whose addictions are too severe to be offered a place in existing psychiatric care. Moreover, this group is often faced with poverty, homelessness and regular clashes with the Court. The experience of socio-spatial exclusion and the loss of faith in the support available causes many of them to avoid care and/or to resist it. This increases the gap between this group and the support they need.
The approach adopted by Villa Voortman is characterised by offering ‘asylum' or refuge, a warm-hearted place where this group feels welcome and accepted. Villa Voortman uses creativity and culture to reduce the gap between support and those who need it. In addition to offering non-compulsory therapeutic assistance, Villa Voortman has an extensive artistic operation with which it aims to create low-threshold opportunities for encounters between those in need of help and between the latter and care providers. The inspirational individuals behind the project, Dirk Bryssinck and Wim Haeck, want to break down the classical division between those in need of help and those providing it. The project’s small scale allows work to be carried out on the basis of equality and equal participation, in order to restore and defend human dignity. Villa Voortman takes a 'harm reduction' approach to care, and has the necessary structural flexibility to provide targeted care for specific needs.
The safe space of Villa Voortman is firmly anchored locally in the Rabot district, a rather vulnerable area of Ghent in socio-economic terms. Villa Voortman follows the principle of community-based healthcare. Villa Voortman is embedded in a care network and works closely with, among others, Street corner workers, the OCMW, the Medisch Sociaal Opvang Centrum, mobile teams, Assertive Care in Society (AZiS+) and the District Health Centres, which are rooted in the local social fabric. For example, Villa Voortman also deploys mobile teams to approach people in need of care in their own living environment.
The Gent-Sleidinge Psychiatric Centre is responsible for the continuity of the therapeutic support and the operational input of staff, housing and facility management. In addition, it is actively supported by the City of Ghent. The City made eight former social housing units available in the nearby Vogelenzangpark as a permanent location for Villa Voortman’s operations, and financed a substantial part of the necessary conversion costs. Villa Voortman has the complementary structure of the Friends of Villa Voortman, a non-profit organisation, for the supervision and funding of artistic projects. Its board of directors is deliberately diverse, with representatives from the authorities as well as the medical, academic, judicial and cultural sectors.
Dirk Bryssinck, Wim Haeck, Ghent-Sleidinge Psychiatric Centre, City of Ghent, FPS Public Health etc.
cultural change, organisational form, financing
building, district, municipality
Interview Dirk Bryssinck - Silence is not an option
Villa Voortman does not focus on curing people with multiple problems. Villa Voortman sets the bar lower than in the regular health care sector and focuses on limiting the damage and improving the general quality of life.
photo: Zwijgen is geen optie, 2017
Dirk Bryssinck on Villa Voortman
Many people with a combined problem of substance abuse and psychological difficulties do not find their way to the traditional care network, because of the effectiveness requirement of the available treatments. As an urban antenna, Villa Voortman reaches out to people on their own turf and gives them a fully-fledged place in the city once more.
photo: PsychoseNet, 2018