Posted in Participation, Uncategorized

Being a part, not apart

StanGuest editor: Stan Burridge, Experts by Experience, Project Lead, PATHWAY

When I eventually caught my breath from a fantastic trip to the FEANTSA 2018 conference in Berlin, I had some time to reflect on my experience. It was a real privilege to be invited to the conference which doubled up as a celebration of 30 years of history, of challenging and keeping homelessness on the European agenda. I have tried to choose my highlights but, there were so many to choose from. From beginning to end it was one thing after another, and then when it couldn’t get any better, we all went off for a fantastic meal. The meal was lovely, and a chance to demonstrate that even the thought behind the venue was done with purpose.

I was at the conference to co-present a workshop on client/Expert-by-Experience involvement, and it went well. Leading an involvement project in the UK (Pathway), I have to do a fair amount of presentations, but so far nothing as wide-reaching as the European audience FEANTSA assembles.

What impressed me was the way the gathered audience had a real hunger to learn and they asked lots of questions. I had never had my words translated into other languages before, it was a strange feeling looking at lots of people wearing headphones, listening to the words I was saying being translated by someone else.

My co-presenter, Eliz, was fantastic, she spoke in French and English, so I listened in with my own set of headphones (I can only say please, thank-you and know the French for table and chairs) but having Eliz’s presentation translated for me was fantastic, I was able to really engage in what she had said, and I listened in awe at her story and the way she delivered it.

Dalma was an angel, she sat with us both beforehand, explained how the workshop was set up, and put us at ease. I think it was just little touches like this which meant Eliz and I could set the room on fire, and I think we achieved that, it will live long in my memory.

After the workshop lots of people wanted to speak to us both. It was great to feel that we were A PART of something amazing, something good.

I would love to see something which brings a uniformed client involvement process across the whole of the FEANTSA network, so over the coming weeks I will put together something which I hope will be the starting point for that to happen, and I would love to be involved in that process. I know that a standardised involvement process across all member states would be really difficult to piece together, especially when having to take into consideration the socio-economic and cultural differences that it has.

Europe has such a wonderfully diverse mix of people and this was beautifully exampled by the gathered audience, so added to the thirst to learn and embrace client involvement which I felt at the conference, I think putting together some basic core principles would be very achievable and something which I would love the opportunity to try and influence that in some way and to be A PART of something magical.

I hope there isn’t a need for FEANTSA for another 30 years, but if there is, I can think of no other organisation who could continue bring together so much energy and passion, something people want to be A PART of and not APART from.

 

Stan Burridge spent most of his childhood in the institutional care system and after leaving the ‘system’ has had significant lived experience of homelessness.

After period of time volunteering for a number of voluntary organisations he was employed by Pathway in 2012 as an admin assistant. Since then he has progressed and now continually brings together groups of people with lived experience of homelessness to participate in engagement activities and has led those teams to make real changes for homeless health systems. He says ‘I am always proud of the people who work with us and the massive successes we are able to celebrate together. Recently we successfully got some clarification for GP surgeries regarding registration of homeless people, the first step of getting healthy.” Being homeless and having no identification is no longer a cause to deny GP registration.

Stan is one of those unique individuals who can hold the attention of homeless people and service providers alike, and with a mix of humour and hard-hitting facts can bring open dialogue to any table.

Paul Waters

Senior journalist/Editor

BBC Radio 5 Live

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Posted in EU Funds, FEANTSA Ending Homelessness Awards

The FEANTSA Ending Homelessness Awards

g-n8Ibyo_400x400 Guest editor: Emma Nolan, FEANTSA Communications Officer

You may have heard that we recently opened the call for the 2018 FEANTSA Ending Homelessness Awards. If you’re wondering what these Awards are, then this is the post for you.

We launched the Awards last year as part of our actions around Demand No. 5 of the ‘Be Fair Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People’ campaign manifesto, which calls on the European Union to invest EU funds to help Member States deliver smart, sustainable solutions to homelessness.

With 2017 being the 60th anniversary of the European Social Fund, we focused on projects helped through this Fund and found three worthy winners in the form of a Housing First experiment in Brno (Gold), a youth homelessness project in Helsinki (Silver) and an ambitious project to transition to Housing First in Scotland (Bronze).

Inner photo2017 Winners of the FEANTSA Ending Homelessness Awards

This year we are looking for projects which have been funded by the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), which provides funding for food and material assistance across Europe.

We are hoping to repeat the impact that last year’s Awards had on the winners, as well as on our campaign, and build on the success and awareness raised around the potential of EU funds to reduce and end homelessness.

This year, the Awards ceremony will be held on 6 November in Brussels with invitations soon to be sent out to the FEANTSA network and beyond. The winner will have a short video made about their project which will be screened during the ceremony and shared on the FEANTSA and European Commission social media channels. All three winners will have their projects featured in a Handbook, which will be circulated widely amongst homeless organisations across Europe. We hope that this Handbook will become a valuable resource for other organisations and will allow the winners to explain the successes and obstacles they have faced. Finally, as with this year, all three winners will be invited to present their projects at the 2019 FEANTSA Policy Conference in Portugal.

Winners Awards 2017

Last year’s winners presenting at the 2018 FEANTSA Policy Conference

Therefore, if you are currently working, or have worked on an innovative FEAD-funded project, please do apply to help us to showcase and celebrate some of the excellent work that is being supported by this Fund. European instruments can often be limited when it comes to improving the lives of people in the most excluded situations, yet we are hopeful that we can inspire more and better take-up of the FEAD for tackling homelessness in the current period; and to contribute to building a post 2020 framework that really delivers on the commitment to leave no one behind by reaching out to homeless people.

 

Posted in 2030 Agenda, LGBTIQ, Youth Homelessness

Ending LGBTIQ Homelessness – Shining the Light on Hidden Forms of Homelessness

Robbie small 2 Guest editor: Robbie Stakelum, FEANTSA Policy Officer

In recent years, the rhetoric of the homeless sector in Europe, and internationally, is shifting from managing homelessness, to ending it outright. This isn’t just a lofty aspiration but has been enshrined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which each EU Member State has signed up to.

Ending homelessness necessitates a total understanding of what the needs of people experiencing homelessness are, and tailoring services accordingly. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. The needs of people will change depending on age, gender, background, ethnicity, previous life experiences and their sexual and gender identity. This last point has proven difficult for the homeless sector.

LGBTIQ homelessness is an unknown quantity in Europe. Except for the UK, it is very difficult to understand how many LGBTIQ youth experience or are at risk of becoming homeless. We know from research in Canada, US and the UK that roughly 20-40% of young people experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTIQ, which marks an over-representation of the community among the homeless population.

In a nutshell, LGBTIQ youth homelessness is triggered when a young person is rejected by their family. In this instance they lose their home, their support network, their moral support and perhaps their financial support, which in many cases results in the young person becoming homeless. In this instance the young person doesn’t always recognise their homeless status, a hallmark of youth homelessness. They may sofa-surf and stay with friends for a pro-longed period of time. Over time they may be forced to sleep rough or present to a homeless service.

In general, mainstream homeless shelters are not safe spaces for young people, particularly those who identify as LGBTIQ. It’s not uncommon for young people to experience homophobia or transphobia perpetrated by other service users or even the service provider. Such services are usually not developed for the needs of LGBTIQ youth, as such they do not feel comfortable to disclose their sexual or gender identity. Usually the service provider has no system in place to sensitively collect this important data, which would in time lead to a better understanding of the needs of LGBTIQ youth and adapting services accordingly. As a result, shelters can be blind to the demand for tailored services to support LGBTIQ youth, and mistakenly believe that LGBTIQ homelessness is not an issue they have to deal with or a problem in their community.

Ultimately LGBTIQ homelessness remains hidden in Europe. When we talk about LGBTIQ youth experiencing homelessness we are speaking about a particularly vulnerable group of young people with complex needs, that are different from other young people and adult homelessness. If we are serious about ending homelessness we can no longer close our eyes to this problem and we must develop and deliver tailored services to their needs.

The True Colors Fund in the US has developed a series of toolkits to support service providers on becoming more inclusive and offers tips for creating safer and empowering services for young people to openly discuss their sexual and gender orientation.

This is a growing part of our work at FEANTSA, if you are interested in learning more about this policy area you can check out some interviews I did with the Slovenian Pride Association to better understand LGBTIQ homelessness. If you have more info you’d like to share on this topic please also feel free to get in touch with us.

Posted in LGBTIQ, Youth Homelessness

Hey, sisters, what about my book? (or on why I enjoyed #FEANTSA2018)

pic RBernad Guest editor: Roberto Bernad, Habitat Director, RAIS Fundación

It is always good to discuss ideas and exchange knowledge with people who work further than 1km from you, as it is usually the case in the homelessness sector. I was therefore pleased to have the the opportunity to do it with stakeholders from all over the world at FEANTSA’s Policy Conference 2018 in Berlin. It was not the first time I attended the Policy Conference, but I especially enjoyed two sessions of #FEANTSA2018.

Firstly, the plenary session in the morning started with an inspiring and funny keynote speech by Eoin O’Sullivan from the European Observatory of Homelessness. His presentation could have been the summary of a Monty Python’s filmscript about how western societies inefficiently tried to end homelessness (and failed if nothing changes).

Following that, it was kind of fun to listen to the representatives of the European Commission transferring the responsibility for fighting homelessness to local authorities. Luckily the UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing and the Vice Major of Barcelona were there to remind us that local authorities cannot be left alone, and that they need resources and national and supra-national support to address chronic homelessness as well as new phenomena linked to global trends (e.g. migrations or refugees). In the end, the roundtable discussion was a good example of Monty Python’s absurd societal approaches to confront homelessness.

Secondly, I had the chance to chair a workshop on LGBTIQ homelessness with two of the leading organizations in the issue, the True Colors Fund and the Albert Kennedy Trust. The results of a survey we conducted among FEANTSA’s board members had been quite “clarifying”: there are no figures or estimates about the number of LGBTIQ people suffering homelessness in Europe.

I had a discussion during lunch with someone attending the conference who asked me: “Is it really relevant?” Well, gurl, research conducted by both participating organizations and also the general perception of professionals working in homelessness services seem clear in showing an overrepresentation of the LGBTIQ collective among homeless people, especially, young homeless people (24% homeless young people in the UK identify as LGBT, as per AKT’s report LGBT youth homelessness).

Jama and Gregory (True Colors) and Tim (AKT) showed the audience some relevant data and key factors of the intersections between LGBTIQ discrimination, homelessness and social exclusion, and also some tools and ideas for professionals both organizations have developed. Around 70 people from different organizations joined the session, and what we thought it would be a long time for discussion with the audience remained eventually short.

Just before ending the session we wanted to know if the organizations present in the room would be interested in collaborating or working on LGBTIQ homelessness. When asked about it, almost everyone in the room raised their arms as expression of interest.

The best thing is that Robbie from FEANTSA committed to lead the next steps towards joint actions to address the issue. The True Colors Fund, AKT, Association Le Refuge (a specialized organization in France) and RAIS Fundacion will be up for some action. Will you?

Posted in 2030 Agenda, EU Funds, EU Policy

The European Social Fund: #TheOtherEurope Left Behind?

paul.png    Clotilde 2 Guest Editor: Paul Miller, Communications Assistant FEANTSA, Clotilde Clark-Foulquier, Policy Coordinator, FEANTSA

The European Social Fund is  one of the primary tools at the EU’s disposal for funding projects to contribute to the development of the employment market and the state of human capital across the Union. The Fund focuses on improving the Union’s worker base through vocational training, as well as easing access to employability through up-skilling programmes. One of its aims is to reintroduce the long-term unemployed back into the workforce, as well as to give those in declining sectors new skills to make them competitive once more in a rapidly changing job market.

Falling under the jurisdiction of the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs, and Inclusion, the Social Fund’s long-term aims are said to be “part of Europe’s strategy to remodel its economy, creating not just jobs, but an inclusive society.”

The previous six-year programme began in 2007, right before the 2008 Economic Crisis, and was, relatively speaking, a moderate success. The Commission stated that, “The financial crisis has led to a redoubling of efforts to keep people in work, or help them return to work quickly if they lose their jobs.”

So, did the Commission redouble their efforts for 2014? Well in terms of number of individuals engaged, it appears not. In this sense, the 2014-2020 scheme is floundering compared to its predecessor in 2007-2013, with participation in the third year of the programme dropping at a staggering 59.1% compared to the previous period. Unfortunately, it seems the most recent ESF programmes have been struggling to reach enough beneficiaries.

The European Commission goes on to state that “Another priority focuses on helping people from disadvantaged groups to get jobs. This is part of enhancing ‘social inclusion’ – a sign of the important role that employment plays in helping people integrate better into society and everyday life”

However, the report figures show that, among the disadvantaged groups the Fund apparently aims to engage, the homeless and those affected by housing exclusion make up a marginal fraction of those receiving aid. In 20 EU Member States people categorised as homeless make up less than 1% of those who benefitted, with Portugal, Romania, Cyprus, and Malta including no homeless people whatsoever. It is evidently clear that Europe’s most vulnerable cannot hope to benefit from the scheme unless the Member States and Commission make a genuine effort to target and include the homeless population.

This is especially worrying when the EU Commission’s Department of Social Affairs quote long-term employment as one of the greatest preventative measures for poverty and social exclusion, two dangers that are innate in the homeless’ day to day lives.

When the exclusionary effects of long-term unemployment are compounded with the widespread detriments to a person’s well-being, both physically and mentally, experienced while suffering from homelessness, the results can be catastrophic, potentially condemning them to a lifetime of social and economic exclusion.

If the quotes above are indeed the EU Commission’s motivation for pursuing these programmes then surely it is imperative to target those whose situation inherently puts them at risk of suffering the very social issues they wish to target?

With the European Economic and Social Committee now recommending that “funding should be earmarked for the most deprived […] and should be substantially increased to support social inclusion measures going far beyond the provision of food and material subsistence,” it is clear that now is the time for the EU to commit fully to a comprehensive strategy to reintegrating and including the growing homeless population into European society.

If the EU is to approach the homelessness crisis in any meaningful way in its 2030 agenda, efforts to include the increasing homeless population in the next two ESF programmes will be integral. The Be Fair, Europe Campaign advocates for long-term investment in homelessness to really combat the significant human, societal and economic costs of those left behind by current EU Investment, whether it be the European Social Fund, European Structural and Investment Funds, or the European Fund for Strategic Investment. In order to achieve this, the structures already in place need to work specifically target beneficiaries that can extend aid to homeless participants. It has been done before, now let’s make sure it continues until homelessness is eradicated.

Be Fair, Europe! Stand Up for Homeless People.

Posted in Cities, housing first

Preventing Homelessness – Insights from Aberdeen

Profile Picture Website Guest Editor: Alana Nabulsi

This article has been written by our guest editor Alana Nabulsi the Support Services Manager for Early Intervention and Community Empowerment with Aberdeen City Council. In this article Alana writes about Aberdeen’s goal to prevent homelessness among ex-prisoners through housing led solutions.

The primary community justice driver in Aberdeen City’s Local Outcome Improvement Plan requires us to effectively manage and support people in the criminal justice system to reduce the likelihood of their reoffending and improve outcomes for these individuals, their families and communities. We are working hard to ensure that people are resilient, included and supported when in need, and are part of empowered and equally resilient and sustainable communities. Our goal – ensure that households previously homeless have 100% tenancy sustainment for more than 1 year and there is no repeat homelessness within 12 months.

A “Housing Led” approach to rapidly rehouse is helping to reduce the likelihood of reoffending by providing an individual leaving prison with a firm foundation and reducing the anxiety and insecurity associated with being homeless upon liberation. Underpinning this ethos is much of the learning from Housing First services, academia and international forums.

Active engagement at the start of the prison journey coupled with providing housing options prior to liberation has helped contribute to better overall outcomes with many individuals able to return to their homes. As a consequence, homelessness presentations from prison have reduced by over 50% over the last two years.

Aberdeen City has been working in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service to assist offenders to sustain their tenancies and prevent their homelessness upon release. In line with the general homeless demographic, offenders are disproportionately likely to be single, male and affected by mental and physical health issues, including addictions. A Case Officer from Aberdeen City Council’s Housing Access Service attends HMP Grampian weekly to provide housing options to offenders, assess their circumstances under homelessness legislation and where required, identify suitable temporary accommodation upon release.

Underpinning the rapid rehousing improvement work has been a two year project to provide people going into prison with housing support. A Support Officer is based at the prison three days a week and deals with incoming issues around benefit entitlement, working to overcome barriers associated with sustaining their tenancies while they serve their sentence or indeed, while they are on remand.

The rapid rehousing project runs until May this year and expects to see an increase by 5% of the number of prisoners owed a statutory homelessness duty that are suitably rehoused within 6 weeks of release, striving where ever possible to avoid the use of temporary accommodation and allow a smooth pathway from prison to home. One of the tenants who recently benefited from this experience was able to move into his permanent home the day of his liberation – an experience that the program aspires to try and replicate.

This feeds into a wider piece of work that we are piloting later this year to provide a Housing First service to three priority groups including prison leavers, looked after children and complex needs, “chronic” homeless cases. The Housing First pilot will see 20 individuals assisted through this service, the first in Aberdeen and the first of such services to be led by a local authority in Scotland.

Posted in EU Funds, EU Policy, Housing exclusion

The Other Europe: Millions in Housing Exclusion and Homelessness on the Rise

Freek 1 Guest editor: Freek Spinnewijn, FEANTSA Director

The Third Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe 2018, which uses EU data to analyse the situation of housing exclusion across the continent, was published today. It reveals that over 24 million households in Europe are overburdened by housing costs, nearly 37 million households live in overcrowded conditions and nearly 34 million live in damp conditions. It is the only report of its kind and is co-produced by FEANTSA and the Abbé Pierre Foundation.

The past year has resolutely confirmed that another Europe exists: a Europe not merely ignored but also misunderstood, not just despised but also forgotten – a Europe of the homeless. Children now make up the largest group of people in emergency shelters. Women, young adults, people with a migration background and the working poor are also increasingly numerous among the homeless population.

It has been a year since the publication of the Second Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe 2017 and the systematic change we have been calling for has not materialised. Housing exclusion is still a fast-growing problem, leading to increasingly severe saturation of support systems, increased pressure on emergency services and ultimately, homelessness.

Between 2010 and 2016, the cost of housing for poor households (i.e. those with an average income lower than 60% of the national median) increased in three quarters of EU countries. This increase reached its highest levels in the United Kingdom (45%), Portugal (40%) and Bulgaria (54%). On average in the UK, poor households spend 47.4% of their disposable income on housing (spending more than 40% of one’s income on housing is known as housing cost overburden and is generally regarded as the benchmark above which general welfare and standard of living is threatened).

Shockingly, half of poor 18 to 24-year olds in the UK are forced to spend more than 40% of their income on housing – an increase of 32% since 2012. 14.4% of poor households were living in overcrowded conditions in 2016 – below the EU average of 29.8% but higher than countries such as Ireland, Belgium and Spain and 14.2% had financial difficulties in maintaining an adequate temperature in their home in 2016.

With this data in mind, the past few months have seen vague, incompetent announcements from senior government officials across the EU, sometimes announcing figures far below the reality of homelessness, sometimes justifying – in bad faith – the mediocre results of state action by claiming that some people refuse to be housed, or that they even profit from the system by pretending to be homeless to jump the social housing queue. Rooted in a lack of rigorous quantitative and qualitative monitoring of housing exclusion, this profound ignorance regarding the situation homeless people find themselves in does unfortunately not stop at clumsy political clichés. It creates inappropriate and counter-productive policies, contradicting the very essence of the fundamental right to housing.

The confusion over the causes of housing exclusion and the needs of the people who suffer from it leads to confusion over the solutions to be implemented in responding to this social emergency, e.g. the terms ‘accommodation’ and ‘housing’ are often used without distinction by policy makers. Taking this distinction into account is however essential to understand the paradigm shift that a growing number of associations and institutions across Europe are making. Accommodation refers to supposedly temporary shelter, which in reality, due to a lack of housing solutions, perpetuates precarious living situations and does not offer protection of the right to housing, privacy and inclusion. Long-term housing is a prerequisite for well-being, recovery and social integration. It is a means – and not an end – to the protection of all social rights and personal development of an individual.

This distinction nourishes the ongoing change to homeless services: the staircase model, which still dominates in the vast majority of Member States can be likened to a meritocracy, deferring individuals’ right to housing as they stay indefinitely in shelters, and confiscating the right to shelter from those who do not meet the prerequisites of community life laid down by the services. In Europe, consensus has been building for several years on a model that is the reverse of the staircase model: Housing First. This means putting housing back in its rightful place, namely a fundamental right guaranteed by international and European treaties.

Although this change has taken root in local and voluntary bodies, a systemic transformation –  driven by real political will to reverse homelessness, and finally implement the international obligations of Member States regarding the right to housing – is nonetheless still missing. EU institutions also have a key role to play in facilitating and supporting this transition.

This report, in addition to being a repeated call for local, national and European authorities to act, is also a basis for action, recommending strategies to be adopted and pitfalls to be avoided for the implementation of integrated strategies to reduce and eradicate homelessness.

 As a European-level organisation, we are calling on the EU institutions to work with Member States, regions, municipalities and stakeholders on the ground to:

  • Set a goal of eradicating homelessness in Europe by 2030

Eradicating homelessness is not a fantasy, but requires a strategy that is adapted locally. An incentive at European level with a hard and ambitious deadline, in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Programme, would enable Member States to proceed more quickly along this pathway.

  • Support homeless people across all relevant sectors

The responses to homelessness should be integrated into the development and implementation of certain EU sectoral policies, such as policies on youth, gender equality, migration, health, disability, mobility, cohesion and urban development, as well as integration of Roma populations.

  • Monitor progress in homelessness and housing exclusion at Member State level

The European Union has never systematically monitored homelessness in Member States. Homeless people are rendered completely invisible within EU social statistics. A robust mechanism must be put in place to fully grasp and monitor the extent of homelessness. In addition, policies must be established to address these issues in partnership with the relevant institutions, including Eurostat.

  • Defend the rights of homeless people

Homelessness is a clear violation of human rights, which despite everything is chronic and significantly worsening in Europe. EU institutions should use the international and European standards and legal instruments to initiate a human rights-based approach to homelessness.

  • Invest EU funds into eradicating homelessness

Despite the existence of good practices, the funds have had a limited impact on the issues of housing exclusion and very rarely do they reach the most vulnerable people.

 It is through the mobilisation of a strong legal basis, political will and strategic planning that the objective of ending homelessness and successfully fighting housing exclusion will stop being a fantasy and become an imperative to protect human dignity and proof of the European social project’s credibility.