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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Miss Homeless Holland

November 12 2009
Humiliating or life-improving? Therese van Belle was recently crowned the first 'Miss Homeless' in a contest in Belgium, winning a flat with a year's free rent into the bargain. Ms van Belle, 58, beat nine other women in a competition the organisers described as a chance for homeless women to "get themselves out of their old life and on to a new path". The women were judged after a range of different tasks, including proving their commitment to "get themselves out of a difficult situation", as well as their catwalk skills and fashion judgement. Women's rights activists have been vitriolic in their criticism of the pageant, with author Jacqueline Aubenas telling reporters: "I am outraged. These girls turned into puppets parodying their own lives - it's pathetic". Contest runner-up Leonie Renier took a different view, however. She said: "The contest is not obscene. For a homeless person to want to be beautiful is not obscene - it is the misery of life on the streets that is obscene". The contest was sponsored by local businesses, which also sat on the judging panel, along with social worker Mathilde Pelsers and her daughter Aline, who is a beauty queen. Winner Ms van Belle told reporters: "I am delighted, I've never been lucky in my life. This is the first time I've been lucky. I think my life is about to change for the better."