Anti-Homelessness Measures Must Form Part of EU’s SDG Strategy

g-n8Ibyo_400x400 Emma Nolan, FEANTSA Communications Officer

Two years on from the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is time for the EU to commit decisively to ending homelessness.

Two years ago, the European Union adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A core dimension of the 2030 Agenda is the pledge to address the root causes of poverty and to ‘leave no one behind’. In order for the EU to achieve this, a coordinated response to homelessness must form an integral part of its strategy. Of the 17 goals, three relate in particular to homelessness:

The first is SDG1 – eradicating poverty in all its forms. Homelessness is one of the most obvious representations of extreme poverty in Europe, and yet it is often the least discussed or visible in European public policies. Europe cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the persistence of extreme poverty in its Member States. It is not only a problem of the developing world. The UN’s $1.25 a day is not the appropriate indicator of extreme poverty for the EU. However, it is wholly unacceptable to use this as an excuse to brush the issue under the carpet. Inadequate policies to tackle homelessness at the European, national and local level have left millions behind. Our recent report published with the Fondation Abbé Pierre has revealed rising homelessness across the majority of the European Union, as well as a dramatic picture of housing deprivation in almost all EU countries.

The second is SDG3 – ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Housing is a social determinant of death and homelessness is associated with ill-health and a dramatically lower-than-average life expectancy.

The third is SDG11 – making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal includes providing safe, adequate housing for all – arguably the most important step in ending homelessness.

The tools to deal with the challenge of homelessness already exist at the European level.

The EU must begin by committing to ending homelessness by 2030. Whilst this goal is implicitly included in SDG1 (to eradicate poverty in all forms), a clear and explicit mention of ending homelessness at the EU level would create momentum and lead to an increase in investment and political will on behalf of European, national and local actors.

The EU must also follow-up on its call to Member States to develop homelessness strategies and monitor and support their progress. Furthermore, EU policy instruments such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU Urban Agenda, the European Semester and the Social Open Method of Coordination could, if used to their full potential, play an important part in ending homelessness. Responses to homelessness need to be mainstreamed into sectoral policies such as the Skills Agenda, the Migration Agenda, the Youth Guarantee and so on in order to leave no one behind.

Finally, in order to truly know where the EU and member states stand in relation to the implementation of the SDGs, indicators on homelessness and housing exclusion must be part of the Commission’s reporting of the EU’s progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Sustainable Development Goals are a historic opportunity for individual member states and the EU as a whole to take positive action to prevent and tackle homelessness.

Be fair, Europe. Stand up for the homeless.

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Why the EU Urban Agenda marks a real opportunity to end homelessness in our cities

Robbie Guest editor: Robbie Stakelum, FEANTSA Policy Officer

The FEANTSA Be Fair, Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People campaign is putting homelessness back on the EU agenda. We believe the Urban Agenda provides the framework to fight homelessness in our cities.

The number of homeless people in our urban areas is rising across Europe. To empower cities and service providers to end homelessness we are calling for:

  1. Better monitoring of homelessness at member state level
  2. The vindication of the rights of homeless people
  3. Investing EU funds into ending homelessness.

Combating this problem requires collaboration between EU, national, regional and local policy makers, to propose and implement effective solutions.

In 2016, the Pact of Amsterdam established the EU Urban Agenda to bring policy makers from all levels together to improve the quality of life in our cities and tackle social challenges. Among the 12 thematic partnerships, the Urban Agenda has established an Urban Poverty Partnership, which has prioritised homelessness, child poverty, Roma and deprived neighbourhoods. Over the past 6 months I have led a working group focusing on homelessness to develop a series of actions which can have a real and valuable impact in the fight to end homelessness. The actions developed by the working group, and endorsed by the wider Partnership, have recently been put to a public consultation, details of which you can find at the end of this post.

Firstly, the Urban Poverty Partnership has proposed setting a target to end homelessness in the EU. The EU 2020 Agenda excluded homelessness in the way it measured poverty, and at the same time saw homelessness  rise significantly across the EU. The partnership is not looking to set a new deadline, rather it has proposed to re-affirm the international obligations under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty in all forms by 2030, which the EU and member states have already signed up to. Recognising and re-affirming this target will create a momentum to end homelessness and provide the impetus for increased EU funding and investing in evidenced-based practices and housing-led solutions, which will ultimately empower cities in the fight against homelessness.

In supporting any target or deadline to end homelessness in the EU, the partnership is calling for more effective use of EU funds, to shift our mentality from ‘managing’ the problem to ending homelessness. The only EU country where we can see a decline in homelessness, Finland, has invested their resources in Housing First and housing-led solutions. This shift won’t happen on a European scale in a vacuum. The Partnership is proposing capacity-building for the use of European funds to facilitate this shift and empower local actors to have better access to funds and ensure they are used to the maximum effect in order to reach the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in our cities.

Of course, deadlines and better use of funding is important, but better data collection and monitoring is also essential to make sure progress is being made in tackling homelessness. To date there is no harmonised data, which effectively means that we cannot directly compare homelessness in one region with another. This creates problems in understanding the changing profile of homeless people, their needs and how services should be tailored and delivered for maximum effect. FEANTSA have previously highlighted this in our blog post on data here. The Partnership is calling for the full implementation of EU-SILC’s ad hoc module on housing difficulties, which can shed valuable light on past experiences of homelessness, and understand how people entered and exited homelessness. Additionally, the partnership is proposing better and harmonised data collection at the member state level to ensure we capture the full extent of homelessness in the EU.

The Partnership has additionally developed two key principles which should be applied in combating all forms of urban poverty. The first is to always take a human rights-based approach. In the context of homelessness, this means vindicating the basic human rights of people who are homeless. The Homeless Bill of Rights, provides a human rights-based approach cities should use when tackling homelessness. The second principle is the prioritisation of evidence-based practices. The EU has invested in the testing and piloting of actions such as Housing First, the results of which clearly point towards better outcomes in people exiting homelessness, and more efficient use of funding sources. For cities interested in evidence based practices such as Housing First the Housing First Europe Hub can provide valuable tools and resources. The Partnership wants to ensure that in combatting all forms of urban poverty, tested and evaluated practices are prioritised.

The Urban Poverty Partnership has the potential to deliver a lasting impact in the fight against homelessness in our cities. The partnership has put a series of our actions for public consultation. I invite you to participate in this consultation. As Chair of the working group on homelessness, I invite you to respond, and highlight the real need for these actions to be retained and endorsed by the Urban Agenda in empowering us all to end homelessness in the EU.

If you wish to respond to the public consultation you can find more information here:

 

Comparable European homeless data – does such a thing exist?

Chloé Serme-Morin 2017 400x400Guest editor: Chloé Serme-Morin, FEANTSA Project Officer

Homelessness is on the rise in Europe, having reached record numbers across almost all Member States. But what evidence can we rely on to back up this alarming statement, and to substantiate this social emergency? The data for analyzing trends and the gravity of the situation are found within Member States and yet statistical definitions, methodologies, timeframes and geographical scope differs widely from one country to another.

There remains fairly widespread confusion between the situation of roofless people living rough and the broader situation of those without a home, who may be, for example, living in temporary accommodation, or in insecure or inadequate housing.

The EU plays a key role in monitoring and benchmarking socio-economic indicators across Member States and yet the EU statistical toolkit does not cover homelessness data, making it difficult to track and compare progress. One of the central demands of the FEANTSA ‘Be Fair Europe, Stand Up for Homeless People’ campaign is that homelessness needs to become an integral element of the social analysis carried out by the European Commission. There are some promising signs with Eurostat including for the first time ever a set of (optional) questions about housing and material deprivation in its 2018 census.

The data we do have show that there is a systemic problem in our societies: homeless population profiles have been changing since the beginning of the recession, and a substantial part of the explanation is now abundantly clear. Housing markets are pricing out more and more people, and not only the most vulnerable. In fact, today in Europe, social factors such as being young, having dependent family members, or being a migrant make you more susceptible to difficulties in accessing housing. Housing affordability and live­ability are emerging as the most challenging social policy issues all over Europe.

If you would like to read in more depth about the national realities and challenges faced by homeless sector professionals in different European Member States, click here to access the latest edition of the Homeless in Europe magazine – “Increases in Homelessness.”

Be fair, Europe. Stand up for homeless people

Why the European Commission should launch an infringement procedure against the UK for abuse of EU free movement rights

MattiaMauro (1)

Guest editors: Mattia Bosio, Legal Officer at FEANTSA & Mauro Striano, Policy Officer at FEANTSA

 

In several European cities, a significant proportion of homeless people are mobile EU citizens who, in some cases, do not have access to publicly funded shelters and are pushed to sleep rough. In the United Kingdom, destitute EU mobile citizens who sleep rough are facing expulsion. This is happening on the basis of the new European Economic Area (EEA) Regulations adopted by the UK and the guide published by the UK Home Office on the administrative removal of EU citizens and their family members, whereby rough sleeping may be intended as misuse of a right to reside.

Under the interpretation of EEA Regulations provided in the Guide, rough sleeping is appropriate grounds to justify the administrative removal of a mobile EU citizen. According to this approach, mobile EU citizens who are working or seeking work in the UK, or even who have been in the UK for less than 3 months, may be subject to administrative removal solely because they are sleeping rough.

In the view of FEANTSA, and UK-based Migrants’ Rights Network and Praxis, UK Home Office policy is justifying the removal of rough sleepers on the basis of article 35 of Directive 2004/38, which entitles Member States to adopt necessary measures in cases of abuses of rights. We consider that this interpretation, whereby rough sleeping is a form of misuse of a right to reside, is not in line with the notion of abuse of rights existing at EU level under Directive 2004/38. Therefore, the United Kingdom, by considering rough sleeping as a practice that constitutes misuse of a right to reside, is failing to properly implement at national level article 35 of the Directive.

For those vulnerable EU citizens and their family members (including children) who do not have sufficient resources to afford adequate accommodation and are bound to sleep rough, this interpretation is bizarre and cruel. It seems that rather than rough sleeping being taken as a terrible experience for an individual to go through, the UK government is treating it as a potential way to take advantage of the system.

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society and they should be supported, not criminalised. The punitive approach has been jeopardising the living situations of that small minority of mobile EU citizens who have not succeeded and for whom moving to another Member State has led to destitution. We believe instead that a combination of advice and support activities are needed to properly help homeless mobile EU citizens,

We are therefore confident that the European Commission, in the light of social values and principles of the EU and of the EU fundamental rights established in the Charter, will undertake all necessary steps to clarify the UK’s policies on the free movement of destitute EU citizens.

If you would like to read the full complaint, you can contact either Mauro Striano or Mattia Bosio.

Be Fair Europe, Stand Up for Homeless People.

FEANTSA Annual Conference – European homeless sector asks the EU to be fair and stand up for homeless people

Ian_Tilling

 

 

Guest editor: Ian Tilling, FEANTSA President

On Friday 19 May 2017 over 350 people from the homeless sector and beyond gathered in the historic European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, Poland for the FEANTSA Annual Policy Conference, coorganised with St Brother Albert’s Aid Society and the City of Gdańsk, to discuss how to end the current homelessness crisis in the European Union.

We saw a great diversity of participants, from frontline service providers, academics and advocates to local, national and European policy-makers. Those taking part debated diverse topics including migration, housing, youth, rights, employment, health, EU funds, addiction, disability and gender.

This meeting of ideas from people across Europe makes one reflect on what could be done at the European level. What we would like to see is a more social and fair European Union, but at present it is struggling to convince citizens that it has a genuine social agenda, particularly since the 2008 crisis. By standing up for homeless people, the EU can change that. The European Commission has just launched a European Pillar of Social Rights with a strong focus on this issue so now there is a golden opportunity for EU policymakers to work in partnership with national governments, regions and cities to put an end to homelessness.

Inadequate policies to tackle homelessness at the local, national and European level have left millions of people behind. A recent report published by FEANTSA and the Fondation Abbé Pierre has revealed rising homelessness across the majority of the European Union, as well as a dramatic picture of housing deprivation in almost all EU countries.

The tools required to deal with these challenges already exist and the EU has a key role to play in ensuring these tools are effective. These include initiatives like the European Pillar of Social Rights, which highlights the right to housing and the right to shelter as basic human and social rights to which all citizens are entitled. Another is the Urban Agenda’s Working Group on Homelessness, which emphasises the potential of cities in the fight to end homelessness. European structural funds could be used more effectively in projects across the continent to reduce homelessness.

As the EU draws up its 2030 strategy, it must match the ambition of the UN 2030 Agenda and use the instruments at its disposal to reach out to homeless people in order to fulfil its pledge to “leave no one behind”.

The ‘Be Fair Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People’ campaign aims to increase the dialogue between EU institutions and the local, regional and national governments working on homelessness, so European policymakers can make a real impact on reducing homelessness. We hope that events like the FEANTSA Policy Conference can provide inspiration and good practices for both people who work directly with homeless people and for the EU and Member States.

Be fair, Europe. Stand up for homeless people.

Standing Up for Homeless Youth

Robbie Guest editor: Robbie Stakelum, FEANTSA Policy Officer

Homelessness is on the rise across the EU. It is so systemic in society that it is almost accepted as a social inevitability. We need to turn the tide. SDG1 obliges us to end homelessness by 2030. Investing in ending youth homelessness needs to be a European priority for the coming decade.

Youth homelessness is increasing, even in countries we often perceive to have robust social protection systems. In Denmark, youth homelessness has recently increased by 85%. Youth homelessness has many faces and many causes. We see many young people in state care, who transition to adulthood with no aftercare services, directly resulting in already vulnerable youth becoming homeless. In many urban areas, with over-subscribed and under-supplied housing, we are witnessing a generation of young professionals now branded the “housing poor” who spend a disproportionate part of their income on housing, and are at a real risk of homelessness. The LGBTI community is over-represented among homeless youth, where having experienced family rejection, lose their support network and community and become homeless.

Homelessness is an incredibly traumatic experience, and unfortunately it is marked by repetition throughout the life cycle, meaning that once you are homeless you are more likely to become homeless again in later life. A total end to homelessness requires an end to youth homelessness.

Earlier this week, the European Commission’s Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth focused on youth. Homeless youth were consistently raised an issue. The plenary heard of the life experiences of Martin Berthelsen, who told his story of becoming homeless, and the difficulties young people have in accessing social services. One thing was clear from the audience’s participation and reactions from the plenary: no young person should be left homeless in Europe in the 21st century. Maria João Rodrigues MEP, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur for the European Pillar of Social Rights, re-iterated the Parliament’s call for the recognition of the right to shelter and housing, as a key instrument to combating youth homelessness. But a broader question to be asked is what more can the EU do to prevent and end youth homelessness?

First off, empower the Youth Guarantee to deliver for vulnerable young people. The Commission’s flagship initiative is not delivering for vulnerable youth, those most removed from the labour market are not being supported by the Guarantee. We often hear the Commission speak of all-inclusive policies that help and support everyone. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If young people experiencing, or at risk of homelessness, are not set as a target group for the Guarantee, they will continue to be excluded, ignored and forgotten by policy makers. The Court of Auditor’ s estimates that 30% of NEETs are excluded by the Guarantee. Let’s stop talking about all supporting initiatives, and actually implement policies that support everyone, let’s start by enacting a framework for how homeless youth can be supported by the Youth Guarantee.

Secondly, recognise and prevent young people leaving state care and walking directly into homeless shelters. Too often vulnerable young people who are in the care of the state, “age-out” of state care. The transition to adulthood is already difficult. Losing your housing, social benefits and access to social, health, care and support services is a recipe for homelessness. However some countries, like Ireland, have invested in an aftercare guarantee, where young people are assisted with this transition out of state care and this has contributed to the prevention of youth homelessness. Commissioner Thyssen should invest in an after-care guarantee to encourage member states to set a basic social minimum, that would prevent vulnerable young people from becoming homeless.

These are only two examples of what the Commission can do to stem the rise of youth homelessness. We can and should do more to support the most vulnerable in our society. To find out more read the FEANTSA Roadmap for Homeless Youth.

Be fair, Europe. Stand up for Homeless People.

Why do we need a campaign on homelessness at EU level?

Freek 1 Guest editor: Freek Spinnewijn, FEANTSA Director

Why do we need a campaign on homelessness at EU level? Although EU member states hold the main responsibility for preventing and reducing homelessness, we should not neglect the potential for EU policy to help member states in their work. With rising levels of homelessness across much of Europe, there is a need for policymakers to act on homelessness with equity and compassion, and therefore FEANTSA has titled its campaign Be Fair, Europe – Stand up for Homeless People.

This is not an abstract declaration about the need for change, there are concrete actions that European institutions can take that really will make a difference to the lives of homeless people. FEANTSA has created a list of five actions that would have an impact in the real world. These are:

  1. Making more effective use of existing policy instruments
  2. Supporting homeless people in all relevant sectoral policies
  3. Monitoring homelessness and benchmarking progress at Member State level
  4. Defending the rights of homeless people
  5. Investing EU funds in ending homelessness

To find out what these mean in practice, see FEANTSA’s campaign manifesto.

Now there is a golden opportunity to act, with the advent of the UN 2030 Agenda, a commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development worldwide, and at its heart is a pledge to leave no-one behind. This needs to mean delivering for everyone, making special efforts to reach the poorest and most vulnerable. We cannot look forward to a future without poverty when hundreds of thousands of people within the EU face homelessness every day.

When it comes to turning the commitments of the agenda into improvements felt by the European public, the EU has a huge role to play, in the same way it had in shaping the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The European Commission has said that it wants to make the SDGs and sustainability a guiding principle in its work, and preventing and tackling homelessness must be central to the EU’s response to the sustainability challenge.

Of the 17 SDGs, homelessness is particularly relevant to the following three goals, the achievement of which is simply not possible without decisive action to end homelessness.

The first is SDG1 – Eradicating poverty in all its forms – which, as the title suggests, is unquestionably linked with fight against homelessness. Extreme poverty is often treated as a non-issue in the EU, despite it being a clear reality, manifest in persistent and increasing homelessness. Whilst the global definition of $1.90 a day is not appropriate in this context, it would be misleading and wrong for the EU to focus exclusively on relative poverty, which is what the “at risk of poverty indicator” predominantly captures. This is especially true in a context of dramatic increases in homelessness in many member states, a trend that is often at odds with evolutions in relative poverty.

The second is SDG3 – Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. Housing is a social determinant of health and homelessness is associated with ill-health and dramatically lower-than-average life expectancy.

Finally, SDG11 – Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. This goal includes providing safe, adequate housing for all. By definition this includes preventing and addressing homelessness.

Four points need to be addressed in order to meet the goals and stop leaving homeless people behind.

Firstly, member states need to develop homelessness strategies and the EU should monitor and support their progress. Homelessness should also be maintained and strengthened as a thematic priority in the EU’s social policy field, especially under the Social Rights Pillar, the European Semester, the Social Open Method of Coordination and of course, the new EU Urban Agenda, which will be a particularly important framework for addressing sustainability challenges. Initiatives such as the Skills Agenda, the Migration Agenda, the Youth Guarantee, the Disability Strategy and so on all need to specifically target homeless people. If these things aren’t done, the EU and its member states will continue to leave people behind.

Secondly, the Europe 2020 Strategy’s poverty target has failed to fully engage with the reality of extreme poverty in the EU. It’s vital that in its next ten-year plan, the EU addresses this gap. To do so, the Commission and member states should commit to ending the scandal of homelessness in the post-2020 era. This should start with a commitment to ensuring that no one need sleep rough by 2030.

Furthermore, to truly ensure no one is left behind, homeless people need to be viewed as key stakeholders by the European Commission. The Commission plans to launch a multi-stakeholder platform on the 2030 Agenda. This platform must actively reach out to include those that are currently left behind, such as the homeless. If only broader sustainability perspectives are focused on, the most vulnerable will continue to be left out.

Finally, in order to truly know where the EU and member states stand in relation to the implementation of the SDGs, indicators on homelessness and housing exclusion must be part of the Commission’s reporting of the EU’s progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Worryingly, Eurostat’s first overview of where the EU and member states currently stand has left homelessness and extreme poverty completely out of the picture. From 2017 onwards, the Commission will carry out more detailed regular monitoring, developing a reference indicator framework for the SDGs. As a matter of urgency, Eurostat and other Commission services need to develop a strategy for measuring extreme poverty and housing exclusion. The Sustainable Development Goals are a historic opportunity for individual member states and the EU as a whole to take positive action to prevent and tackle homelessness.

Be fair, Europe. Stand up for homeless people.