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If you spend any time walking about the city of Bruges, Belgium you will begin to notice houses that all look alike all over the city. Most of them are from late medieval times and have a name and a year engraved on their outside walls. These homes are Godshuizen, which literally means Houses of God. They are not small churches or even places of worship. What they are better called is houses for the poor and needy. Today that may be called low cost housing.

As early as the 14th century the rich in Flemish cities made certain to build houses for poor and needy widows and widowers. In many cases the homes were actually built by corporations or guilds for their members who had lost their income and could not work. You will find most of these houses forming a complex around an inner court where residents could get water and grow veggies. Many of the complexes (based on 4 to 24 houses) also had a chapel. In most Godshuizen, the poor inhabitants also received food and basic care. Look for examples of this kind of housing the Zand Square and the Sint Kathelijnestraat.

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