“Gracious exploitation of vulnerable tenants in Rotterdam”.
The BPW has been approached by Foundation "On the way home"” from Rotterdam. She tries to help people who have become homeless or homeless through a care process to get back on their way in society. Due to a shortage of housing in Rotterdam, it is not easy to find affordable housing for them. Also the (discriminatory) “Rotterdam Act” does not help. That law provides that residents who earn less than 120% of the minimum income can be banned from certain parts of the city.
As a result, Op Weg Naar Huis teamed up with Stichting Meesteren in June 2016. Since then, 22 clients have lived in the former nursing home Antonius IJsselmonde in Rotterdam. The property is owned by the distressed care company Laurens and is about to be sold. (possibly to Stichting Meesteren).
“At first it seemed master a well-meaning non-profit alternative foundation,” says Yolanda Groeneweg, chairperson of Op Weg Naar Huis. “We were happy with this partner, but it soon turned out that things were very different. The problems started when the contract was presented. It was full of questionable terms. We were given the choice: either no deal, or a loan agreement for clients of 350 euros (!!) and, in connection with reciprocity, a minimum of 10 to 16 hours per month of work for Meesteren Job Center per person. And that for a room without a lock, 1 shower per 16 people and 1 kitchen for about 100 people”.
Op Weg Naar Huis asked whether this was possible, asked critical questions, and had an alternative contract drawn up by a lawyer that was refused by Meesteren. The dubious “loan” contract of Meesteren was not signed. For a rights-free loan contract after all, no rent/consideration may be made in cash (euros) or kind (labour) be prompted.
Since then, people have lived on a colorful mix of “flex” contracts/situations in the building. Some live without any contract with Meesteren. Other tenants in the building have signed the dubious Meesteren contract. Reportedly, there are also residents with a "real" right-free loan contract for 0 euros, on another floor in the building.
Living without rights and working without rights
In addition to a place to live, residents could also perform all kinds of "volunteer" activities for the "ideal" Stichting Meesteren. They were promised a reward. “We would also receive a discount on the rent,” says resident M., who wishes to remain anonymous.
“My husband and I worked at least 60 hours a week per person for the Meesteren Foundation. We called companies for food for a soup kitchen, worked night shifts, reception services. We also collected food, inventoried it, cooked, served, made food packages for residents, and did the dishes. We also did marketing for Meesteren: creating websites, approaching new companies. I even sent interns studying communication and marketing.”
They were verbally promised that they would earn €2,500 per person per month, says M.. “We are now in the start-up phase, we were told. That is why it was not even possible to pay a “volunteer” fee. There was still not enough money. Later we would get paid. But later did not come. My partner has worked for Meesteren for 1.5 years and I myself for 3 months. We never received a cent.”
“We believed in the project. We wanted to help people who, like ourselves, were in a difficult position. People came who were really hungry. At such a moment you help people. You don't assume that an organization will abuse you like that."
“When we started asking questions, the intimidation started. By pretending to be a social worker, Meesteren gained access to our medical file and had our 2 children placed out of their home through Youth Protection. Unbelievable," muttered M.. "As if you ended up in a bad B-movie" says her husband JP. The couple has now taken legal action and filed a report.
“Anyone who makes a fuss will be denied access to the building or eliminated in some other way,” says Yolanda Groeneweg, who experienced this firsthand. “Stichting Meesteren has physically denied me access to the building. My clients just walk around there. This is dangerous.” Meesteren refused to place locks on the residential units, after long insistence from the Op Weg Naar Huis foundation, the clients were given a second-hand lock, some keys fit on various doors, so there is still no security. Groeneweg:“When we contact the owner Laurens, he refers directly to the Meesteren Foundation. They don't want to talk to us. I sit with my hands in my hair. This is a very vulnerable target group. We want to provide a safe place.”
The BPW has several witness statements in its possession that confirm the course of events. A volunteer from the BPW helped to ensure domestic peace for some residents.
Not the first time
Previously, tenants of Meesteren at a different location also rang the bell with a similar story. The "trick" seems to work like this:
1. Pretend you're buying a property.
2. In the run-up to the purchase, you already become a manager and you create the appearance of a social interpretation.
3. In the meantime, you (“loan”) let tenants pay full price (and possibly do work/investments for you).
4. You cancel the contract with tenants if, for example, the purchase does not go through.
5. You evict tenants with short notice periods.
6. You pocket the money and leave for the next location.
As of November 15, 2016, the "contract" has been canceled without giving reasons and the people who have been cared for are, if it is up to the Meesteren foundation, back to square one: homeless. However, they can continue to rent through this foundation under new conditions. master (and the numerous affiliated foundations) appear to have close ties with municipality of Rotterdam and also manage properties for them. Here they are still smiling happily in the photo with Liveable Rotterdam alderman Struijvenberg with a Hart voor Rotterdam award.
The BPW states: “If this is correct, vulnerable people are being exploited here under the guise of corporate social responsibility. This really has to come to an end now. Everyone deserves housing security. We call on all parties to take care of this.”
The Rotterdam SP has now asked council questions about the precarious housing situation. We wish that politicians and Laurens take responsibility and put an end to these abuses. Residents are considering further steps together with BPW to prevent eviction and have engaged a lawyer.
– We demand that Laurens stop doing business with dubious companies such as Stichting Meesteren.
– We want Laurens to look for a solution with “Op Weg Naar Huis” for the continuation of the occupation in this building with a decent lease.
– Municipality of Rotterdam needs people housing with rental contracts and stop outsourcing to anti-squat agencies who work with strangulation contracts.
– Good (re)housing of homeless people and flex tenants.
INFO AFTERNOON for Residents
Friday 11 November 15:00 the Bond Precaire Woonvorm organizes an information afternoon for all residents of the Antoniushove.
Location: Grote Hagen 92 (District Building Pit 010) Rotterdam.
We will talk about the new contracts of Meesteren, inform residents with different types of contract about their rights, discuss the situation that has arisen and (possibly jointly) steps to be taken.
We ask people share their experiences with Masters too with the BPW.
You can also ask questions via this form.
For more (background) information or contact with the residents, please Contact record with us.