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Grand Hospice

Meet Our Residents : Bulle, the mobile wasserette 

Bulle, the mobile wasserette, Molenbeek, Brussels

"Meet our Residents" is a series of articles designed to showcase the super projects of the super residents of the Grand Hospice temporary occupation. All the projects are divided into four themes: Sustainable Development, Community, Art & Culture, and Education & Health. 

You've undoubtedly come across this funny, super-equipped white van on the streets of Brussels. Inside are two washing machines and two dryers, which it drives from Central Station to Gare du Midi, via Place Flagey, for an afternoon, or more concretely, for 8 complete washing cycles. It's Bulle's "mobile wasserette van", an association whose mission is to help the most vulnerable members of society. 

A concrete service to alleviate an alarming situation. According to the latest figures from the Plateforme d'Aide aux Sans-Abri de Bruxelles (PASAB), no fewer than 5,000 people are homeless in our capital. Without access to basic sanitation! A striking figure that highlights the usefulness of the front-line sanitary and social service offered by this association: the simple possibility of washing one's clothes.  

We met Samuel Fuks, the committed and dedicated President of ASBL Bulle, in the premises they occupy within the Grand Hospice. Their space is still almost empty, but not for long. In a few answers to our questions, he tells us the story of Bulle and their overflowing benevolent ambitions. 

What do you actually do?

In practice, the mobile wasserette acts as a pretext for meeting and accompanying people in need. A bit like the old-fashioned laundromats, where people got together to chat while the machines were running. The idea is to bring people together, to create, to encourage social cohesion, and above all, to make visible what is invisible.

We are often accompanied by other marauding services that complement our own, with whom we create what we call the "solidarity village": mobile showers, a mobile library, a hairdresser and so on. The idea is to create a place where people can stop for a coffee, a chat or a game of soccer. In the midst of their haphazard daily lives, we try to offer a space where our public can relax in complete safety.

Bulle, the mobile wasserette, Molenbeek, Brussels

On a more personal note, what led you to take on this mission?

After my studies, I had the chance to travel all over the world, and in particular to Cambodia, where I was confronted with a certain type of precariousness. It was there that I realized that those who have the least are often those who give the most. On my return, I got together with a group of acquaintances, friends of friends of friends and others to raise awareness and get people moving. The mobile wasserette concept, straight from Australia, seemed a good way of setting an example. We made the rounds of associations active in the sector, who all thought the idea was brilliant. So off we went!

Where do your funds come from?

It was a crowdfunding campaign that enabled us to launch the project. But today, Bulle is 80% subsidized. The rest comes from private donations. A ratio that is evolving and tending to balance out. 

Accessing subsidies is never easy! Even less so with a service like ours, since we don't fit into any predefined box. As we are not entitled to a recurring subsidy, the association's survival is at stake every year. So we have to keep reinventing ourselves and doing things differently. It's stressful, but it's what we love and... it's also our strength!

Tell us about a defining moment in your bullfighting career. 

What really struck me was the Covid crisis. The two watchwords given to the company were "no stagnation" and "go home". A completely surreal situation! We had to stop everything dead in its tracks, and that really hurt! Since we couldn't just sit back and do nothing, we first organized a food distribution service, and after two weeks of stoppage, we decided to resume the wasserette rounds. With a sanitary protocol, of course!

Then, as I often say, Bulle does the work of the State. We're clearly a public utility. At the time, only public utilities could be open, so we played on that. In any case, what's certain is that this crisis has really made us want to surpass ourselves.

And what do you get out of the Grand Hospice?

We plan to transform our space into a real meeting and gathering place. A kind of day-care center. Here, we want to create "the experience" and set up services that can benefit our target public. For example, yoga classes in which some of our beneficiaries could take part free of charge, or a repair café where they could learn new skills. We're also working on setting up various services: legal, psychological and socio-professional reintegration. In the corridor, you can also see the first part of our exhibition to raise awareness of homelessness. We're developing lots of stuff, and we'll see where it all goes.

The wasserette mobile van is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the association's activities and services. This bubble of benevolence will continue to grow with creative ideas and collaborations. Curious about other meaningful projects? Come and visit us - the corridors of the Grand-Hospice are full of them! 

More info on Bulle? Click here !
And to discover all the Grand Hospice resident projects, it's this way here !