Platform Zero

Platform Zero was a financially supported volunteer project near Rotterdam Central Station providing aid and shelter to drug addicts and homeless people. After its foundation in 1987, the Platform grew into an international open drug scene. Eventually the increasing number of visitors and criminality led to the closure of the platform in 1994.

By 1987 the Rotterdam police had cleared many of the drug scenes located in residential areas. This drew groups of addicts to the Rotterdam train station. Pastor Hans Visser and Nico Adriaans, founder of the Junkie Union, had set up support for this group in the nearby Paulus Church. In 1987, they suggested creating an additional space near the train station.  Rotterdam officials supported the project, because they wanted to minimize the disturbance near the station while also preventing the users from returning to the residential areas.

In March 1987 Platform Zero opened its doors. The first location was a porto cabin on Delftseplein, near the methadone bus. From 2 PM to 8 PM visitors could come in for a cup of coffee, meeting peers and referrals to care providers and social workers. Drug use and selling was initially strictly forbidden.   The project used harm reduction methods such as needle exchange and free condoms.  In the beginning there were about 75 daily visitors, a mixture of Dutch, Surinam and Moroccan users. The reactions from city government, police and the railways were generally positive.  Public complaints were mostly about visual disturbance.

In the early 1990s the first signs of trouble arose for the project as the visitor number on the Platform grew in the hundreds. The new circumstances made it impossible to prevent the use of drugs, and this became condoned.  The scene pulled users from Belgium and France, who found the Dutch platform a safer and cheaper location to use and buy drugs. Moreover, for illegal immigrants, the Platform was a place to make money from the drug trade or to hang out because they had nowhere else to go.  The social aspect of the Platform was also important. Visitors not only came to buy and sell drugs, but also for meeting up with peers and to hang around.

As the number of visitors grew, so did the attention by media.  The open drug scene drew increased protest from the public. The Platform was attacked by taxi drivers in 1992 and 1993 and by a group of marines in 1992.  While officials condemned the marines, their action generated a lot of public sympathy. Below is a short news clip from the marine action in 1992.

In the summer of 1992 Platform Zero moved to the West side of the train station, a location four times bigger, across from a police station. Despite this move it became impossible to manage the Platform due to the influx of addicts, homeless, illegals and dealers from in- and outside Rotterdam.  Moreover, the increased use of crack-cocaine made the atmosphere more aggressive.  There were fights and murders on the Platform. Overcrowding also resulted in outbreaks of tuberculosis. Between 1993 and 1994 political support for the Platform diminished, and more voices called for its closure. On December 5th, 1994, Pastor Visser closed the Platform.  A week later all building structures and lingering visitors were removed and the location was permanently closed. Following the closure of Platform Zero its members dispersed across Rotterdam. City plans to create shelters for leftover addicts led to protest from residents.  The addicts hung around the center and the Paulus Church.   Moreover, drug tourists who had frequented the Platform moved to other neighborhoods, mainly Spangen.

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