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.


Posted in Cities, Homeless Bill of Rights, housing first

Empowering Cities to End Homelessness

Robbie Guest editor: Robbie Stakelum, FEANTSA Policy Officer

In Europe we are confronted with rising homelessness in all EU countries, with the exception of Finland. This increase has occurred despite the political consensus that in 21st century Europe no one should be forced to sleep rough or in an emergency shelter. The Be Fair Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People campaign is asking all stakeholders, including European cities, to consider their position in combatting and ending homelessness.

The momentum to do more at local level is growing. Cities across Europe are no longer accepting the status quo of increasing homelessness and are finding innovative ways of doing more. For example, Barcelona was the first city to sign FEANTSA and Housing Rights Watch’s  Homeless Bill of Rights, which provides a template for cities to consider the rights of people who are homeless, the Mayor of London has committed to supporting rough sleepers while the EU Urban Poverty Partnership, comprising 7 cities, 2 regions and 5 ministries from 10 EU countries, has called for an end to homelessness by 2030.

The difficulty for cities lies in making the shift from ‘managing’ to ‘ending’ homelessness. The ‘Shift’, as it is known, is being championed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, and requires a re-think of how to design and implement strategies to combat homelessness. Relying solely on emergency shelter is no longer adequate, as evidenced by the growing numbers of homelessness across Europe.

The City of Helsinki provides an excellent framework for any city committed to reducing and ending homelessness. In February 2018, the Housing First Europe Hub, a joint venture between FEANTSA and the Y-Foundation, with 20 members comprising cities, NGOs and ministries pioneering Housing First across Europe, held an expert seminar in Helsinki with cities.

The cities expert seminar profiled the inspirational work of the Y-Foundation and the City of Helsinki in combatting homelessness by using Housing First. Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is decreasing, and indeed has fallen steadily over a number of years. The key to the Finnish model is Housing First. The Y-Foundation has mainstreamed a simple idea: by providing housing as a first step, along with wrap-around supports, we can end homelessness. The results speak for themselves.


Over the Hub’s two-day seminar in Helsinki, officials from cities across Europe had the chance to visit Housing First apartments and see first-hand how the lives of people who had experienced homelessness had been transformed. Cities had the chance to sit down and learn from experts and leaders on Housing First, how the approach became a mainstream policy in Finland. This wasn’t just a class on the theory of Housing First, but it was about practice and how to tackle key obstacles cities typically face in implementing Housing First, such as boosting the available housing stock, finding funding resources and balancing the shift from emergency shelter to housing with wrap-around supports.

For me three things became clear over the course of the seminar:

  1. Cities are facing similar challenges across Europe. The contexts may change with the availability of housing and existing welfare models, but in general, cities face similar resistance in pushing the ‘shift’ from managing to ending homelessness.
  2. Cities are motivated. Cities are crucial to ending homelessness. Policies that contribute to homelessness, whether decided at regional, national or international level are borne out in our cities. Homelessness is pre-dominantly an urban issue and the buy-in and support of our cities is critical. We need to capitalise on the motivation of cities
  3. Cities are isolated. There is a whole suite of resources and knowledge available to cities interested in reducing and ending homelessness going beyond Housing First, but many aren’t aware. Indeed, many don’t have a European or even a national network to turn to for support or inspiration.

When we know that cities face similar challenges and are deeply motivated to combat and end homelessness we need to find ways to help them work together.

With all this in mind FEANTSA is establishing a Cities Bulletin. The FEANTSA Cities Bulletin will give you and your city insights about what’s happening on homelessness at the local level from across Europe, provide interesting practices, innovations and case studies in combatting homelessness and updates on events that will be of interest to cities.

To learn more about the FEANTSA Cities Bulletin and to subscribe, you can contact

To learn more about the Housing First Europe Hub you can contact

Posted in 2030 Agenda, EU Funds, EU Policy, EU Urban Agenda, Migration, Youth Homelessness

Looking Back on 2017

Freek 1 Freek Spinnewijn, FEANTSA Director

Last year we launched FEANTSA’s first campaign for five years – the Be Fair, Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People campaign, which aims to put homelessness at the heart of the EU’s 2030 agenda.


With the launch of the UN 2030 Agenda in 2016, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which form part of this agenda, there is a clear momentum at global level towards taking renewed action to eradicate poverty. The European Union played an important part in designing these goals, and is now in the process of drawing up its own 2030 Agenda, which it has declared will ‘leave no one behind.’ Through the Be Fair, Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People campaign, FEANTSA is aiming to lobby the EU and its Member States to include a clear priority in this agenda to end homelessness by 2030.

When we launched the campaign last March, we published a campaign manifesto which contains five actions the EU institutions, Member States and other stakeholders can take to have a real impact on homelessness in Europe:

  • Make more effective use of existing policy instruments
  • Support homeless people in all relevant sectoral policies
  • Monitor homelessness and benchmarking progress at Member State level
  • Defend the rights of homeless people
  • Invest EU funds in ending homelessness

Manifesto P. 2

Through these actions, we believe that the European Union can take serious steps towards eradicating homelessness in Europe.

We also published a series of Roadmaps throughout the year which take a practical look at what can be done to tackle homelessness through the EU’s Youth Policy, Migration and Asylum Policy and Urban Agenda. More will be published in 2018.

Also under the auspices of the campaign, we held the first ever FEANTSA Ending Homelessness Awards which rewarded innovative projects making use of EU funding to help end homelessness. We were asked to host these awards during the European Week of Regions and Cities, which is one of the most important events in the EU calendar, and the first prize was handed out by European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu. This is something we would like to repeat in 2018.


Commissioner Creţu was also interviewed alongside European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Marianne Thyssen, by the International Network of Street Papers, with whom we partnered up to put questions to EU policy-makers about what they can do to fight homelessness in Europe. More interviews are planned later in the year.

Plans are now in motion for 2018, and we are hopeful that we can keep the momentum going and do more to make our manifesto demands heard by EU policy-makers, national governments and other stakeholders. To our partners and supporters around Europe, watch this space, as we will soon be calling on you to collaborate with us.

Be Fair, Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People.


Posted in EU Urban Agenda, Homeless Bill of Rights

Introducing the Homeless Bill of Rights

Maria Guest editor: Maria José Aldanas, FEANTSA Policy Officer


The Homeless Bill of Rights is an initiative of Housing Rights Watch and FEANTSA to recognise and protect the rights of homeless people.

We have been working since 2012 to raise awareness against the penalisation of homelessness. We organised the Poverty is Not a Crime campaign to raise awareness about the issue and asked pro bono lawyers to provide a snapshot of the municipal regulations and how they impact the criminalisation of homelessness in 17 EU Member States. In 2013 we published a book, Mean Streets: A report on the criminalisation of homelessness in Europe.

In the past, we have focused on denouncing the measures that are directly or indirectly criminalizing homeless people.

This time we are calling for European cities to adopt a rights-based approach to homelessness. Cities have a significant role to play in combatting homelessness and in safeguarding human rights in a highly urbanised world.

We should not need to remind anyone that homeless people are worth the same and have the same rights as everyone else. However, their rights are frequently violated, and we are witnessing an increase in the criminalisation of homelessness across the EU.

Some of the more recent developments include the growing use of Public Space Protection Orders in the United Kingdom, municipal ordinances punishing begging being issued in Italy, a proposal to ban begging in Sweden, to mention just a few.

A number of key international human rights reports and documents remind us of international obligations of States. Particularly relevant are:

  • The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing in her 2015 report called for States to “commit to eliminating homelessness by 2030 (…), and also asked that “Any and all laws or measures that criminalize, impose fines on or restrict homeless people or behaviour associated with being homeless, such as sleeping or eating in public spaces, must be immediately repealed.”
  • A UN resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 23 March 2016 which contained strong calls for action to integrate the human right to adequate housing in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals added a call for states ‘to take all measures necessary to eliminate legislation that criminalizes homelessness’.
  • The New Urban Agenda, approved at the UN Habitat III Conference in November 2016, called for measures to “prevent and eliminate homelessness” to “combat and eliminate its criminalization” and for “the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing

The EU can and should act to enforce the human rights of all EU citizens, including homeless people. In the context of the EU Urban Agenda, the Urban Poverty Partnership has a focus on homelessness, among one of four priority areas. This Partnership has called on cities to take human rights-based approaches to tackling urban poverty and homelessness in their draft Action Plan. We have previously highlighted in this blog how the EU Urban Agenda constitutes a real opportunity to end homelessness in our cities.

The Homeless Bill of Rights is a compilation of basic rights drawn from European and International human rights law. By endorsing it, cities reaffirm their commitment to human rights which should guide them towards tackling the root causes of poverty and homelessness.

It is a document which cities can translate and adapt to their own context. Cities are strongly encouraged to build a participatory strategy at local level to involve all stakeholders before the Bill is signed by the city council. There is not one single procedure for endorsement of the Homeless Bill of Rights. Approaches have been quite diverse and adapted to the context.

We sincerely hope that this initiative will help us to raise public debate on this issue and emphasise the role of the cities in tackling homelessness and upholding human rights at local level.

The official launch of the Homeless Bill of Rights will take place during the CITIES Forum in Rotterdam on 28 November 2017 among leading cities from across Europe.

If you would like to learn more about the Homeless Bill of Rights, click here.