For eleven years, Jelena has been wandering from a sublet room, to anti-squat houses and back to her old sublet address. In between, she tries to build a good life, despite high medical costs and long-term treatment with a psychologist (PsyQ) for PTSD. But: that good permanent living space, it just won't come. 

Deep in debt and homeless after wrongful accusation of welfare fraud by the municipality of The Hague.

To top it all off, her precarious living situation has led to her being wrongly accused of welfare fraud by the municipality of The Hague this summer. All her income has been stopped since June and now she is being evicted because she can no longer pay the rent. Together with BPW, she calls on the involved aldermen Mariëlle Vavier and Martijn Balster to take action and rectify this gross injustice!

Solidarity action & delivery of demands

August 25, 12:00

Spuiplein The Hague

Housing insecurity

In 2019, Jelena will return to the sublet room where she previously lived for six years. She has good contact with the landlord, who also has his main residence in the house. In 2022, he also decides to accommodate three Ukrainian refugees in the house. Two of them, a couple in their 70s, initially sleep on the sofa in the living room. But Jelena wakes up almost every night from intense nightmares due to her PTSD. She then always goes to the living room, and suggests that the elderly couple sleep in her bed during her waking hours. This act of kindness grows into a habit and eventually it happens that Jelena gives up her bed at night when she stays up after a nightmare.

But. Due to the high number of registrations at the address, the municipality will start an address investigation in May 2023 into possible overcrowding. Doubts arise. Does Jelena really have her main residence in the room where she has lived since 2019? Two intense interrogations follow, and Jelena does not realize that she is suspected of fraud. There, in those interrogations, the misunderstanding arises that Jelena has permanently given up her room to the Ukrainian couple. That she herself stays with her father, who also lives in The Hague. And it is true that she often visits her father. He is lonely, sick and in need of help, and her own house is so busy with five residents. Sometimes during the day she catches up with her father, or does some laundry. In her own room there is no longer room for the drying rack. 

An accumulation of assumptions, misunderstandings and possibly prejudices follows. There remains distrust among the enforcement & Fraud officials. Jelena's entire private and lifestyle is vetted. They look at where she does her shopping, where and when she uses public transport, how much money she spends, and whether that is plausible. Pictures are taken of her room, her belongings, clothes and underwear. She is even asked about the color of her duvet cover (which she can of course name correctly). In the end, her lifestyle is ruled implausible and her primary residence in the room is definitively called into question. 

Result: her benefits will be stopped immediately on June 26, 2023 and the almost € 19,000 she received in assistance during the past year will be reclaimed. The way Jelena has to live – that's not how people live and live according to the officials in The Hague. She is declared guilty of welfare fraud without the intervention of a judge or lawyer. And now, two months later, the landlord has canceled her rent. Since the loss of her benefit, she can no longer afford it. August 27 she becomes homeless.

Why fraud?

How can Jelena be accused of fraud if she has been living and registered in this room for years? She has the key to the house, a contract, pays rent, her toothbrush is in the bathroom and she has several landlord statements that testify to being a good tenant. Yet the officials of the Municipality of The Hague do not think that she really lives there because of her deviant lifestyle. She is being punished for the consequences of her illness PTSD and for the kind act of giving up her bed to a Ukrainian couple during her sleepless nights. 

Objection procedure

Meanwhile, Jelena has been using BPW and a lawyer from Social Story started the appeal procedure. This procedure seems promising. But she is already out on the street before the objection procedure is even considered! And then Jelena can whistle for a benefit anyway.

For example, the municipality's decision to designate it as a fraud has devastating consequences, which immediately undermine its housing and social security. BPW and its lawyer conclude that the municipality has not acted in accordance with the principle of due care. This means that all facts, interests and consequences for those involved are thoroughly investigated before such a far-reaching decision is taken. The municipality of The Hague failed to do so, which is why we hold the municipality and alderman Mariëlle Vavier responsible for the situation that has arisen, including the imminent homelessness. We call on them to get started immediately for a sustainable solution!

BPW and Jelena therefore demand from the municipality of The Hague, alderman for poverty Mariëlle Vavier and alderman for housing Martijn Balster:

1. Offer housing security and ensure that Jelena can immediately apply for and receive urgent assistance for a social rental home.

2. Provide financial security by reinstating Jelena's benefit as of June 26, and undoing the $19,000 chargeback.

Solidarity action & delivery of demands

To reinforce these demands, we will hand over our requirements for housing and financial security to the relevant aldermen at the city hall of The Hague on 25 August. We start at 12:00 with a solidarity action on the Spuiplein in front of the city hall. Show your solidarity and make it clear to local and national politicians that we no longer accept that human lives are destroyed by unfounded fraud prevention! Protect residents in precarious living situations and prevent homelessness at all times!

Guilty until proven guilty?

You would think that municipalities and government agencies learned lessons from, for example, the benefits affair. Yet we see time and time again how vulnerable citizens are labeled as fraudsters by government authorities without a thorough investigation or independent judgement, with all the consequences that entails. Your lifestyle is judged by a handful of officials, labeled as implausible and you are driven deep into debt as an alleged fraudster. Tenants in precarious living situations are particularly vulnerable and are also at risk of losing the roof over their heads. Is this manhunt for suspected or unsuspected welfare fraudsters worth destroying human lives? What do we gain as a society if another vulnerable resident ends up on the street due to the actions of the municipality? We demand immediately that the municipality solves this self-created situation for Jelena and guarantees her an income and a roof over her head!

Press contact

For contact with Jelena or questions about the content of this article or the upcoming promotion, please contact the spokesperson of BPW Den Haag at, or call 06 50856715

Support the fight for housing security!

Recent Posts

BPW Newsletter