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.

Posted in housing first, Youth Homelessness

Can Housing First be Part of the Solution to Homelessness?

Samara Jones Guest editor: Samara Jones, FEANTSA Policy Officer

Can we really end homelessness?

This is a question often asked to those working in the homeless sector. The short answer is yes. I would argue that Housing First plays an important role in tackling homelessness.

Housing First is surprisingly easy to explain. If you start by providing someone with a safe, secure place to live, it just makes sense that it will be easier to wrap services around the person and support them to access the help that they need, when they need it.

Over the past decade, the concept of Housing First has gained ground in Europe. Dozens – if not hundreds – of pilot projects have helped to contribute to the growing body of evidence that Housing First really does work. Experimental projects and subsequent studies in Canada, France and elsewhere have demonstrated that 80 to 90% of people who are provided with access to independent, stable and secure accommodation maintain their first home, and in general have much better outcomes in terms of health, mental health, and reconnection with family members than people who are not residents of Housing First programmes.

We recognise that Housing First works as a project, but we also know that it has the potential to transform systems and to work on a much bigger scale.

In Europe we tend to look to Finland as the leader on Housing First. Over the past 15 years, Finland has effectively eradicated street homelessness. It is one of the very few – if not only – jurisdictions in Europe where the number of homeless people is declining. We turn to Finland to ask how they managed to achieve this, and what it might mean for other countries. Some of the answers to these questions can be found in a new book, A Home of Your Own, which Y-Foundation recently published.

Last year, Y-Foundation and FEANTSA established a joint-venture to take Housing First to the next level.  With approximately 15 other partners (foundations, NGOs, governments and experts), Y-Foundation and FEANTSA created the Housing First Europe Hub.

The Hub’s partners are working to provide and share relevant research, training and practice to support the scaling up of Housing First.  Some highlights from our first year include:

  • A feasibility study, entitled Scaling Up Housing First in a Major City. The study, commissioned by our partner Crisis in the UK, looks at what it would take for a city (in this case: Liverpool) to shift to a homelessness response that puts Housing First at the centre of the system. The report’s findings are relevant not just for Liverpool, but also for other cities who are ready to make a commitment to Housing First. The Hub will publish a roadmap based on this study to provide insights into how a city can plan for and then shift to Housing First as its default approach to tackling homelessness.
  • Housing First for Youth. Hub partners Rock Trust and Focus Ireland, along with Hub advisors from A Way Home Canada and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, have been working to develop a set of resources to support organisations seeking to adapt Housing First for young people. It is essential to consider the specific and different needs of young people who are homeless, and as such, a new definition, new training materials, and other supports are required. A pilot project has started in Scotland and we will start training on in January 2018.
  • Training is crucial to making Housing First a success. With the growing interest in Housing First in Europe comes a growing demand for training. The Housing First Europe Hub will use the Housing First Europe Guide – which is now available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Czech, and Hungarian (with German and Swedish coming soon), to develop and deliver a ‘Train the Trainer’ education programme to support trainers as they work in their local communities.
  • The Hub is also sharing and building on Housing First research.

This is just the beginning of our work to develop and share tools that can support the scaling up of Housing First.  We believe Housing First is part of the solution to ending homelessness in Europe. The Hub and its partners are keen to work with others who are dedicated to this mission, and are ready for the exciting challenges ahead.



Posted in EU Policy

How Can the 2018 European Semester Truly Contribute to Fighting Homelessness in Europe?

Guest editor: Ruth Owen, FEANTSA Policy Coordinator

The European Semester is the European Union’s annual cycle of economic and social policy coordination. Currently, it is used to make sure Member States correct excessive deficits and macroeconomic imbalances, carry out structural reforms and pursue progress towards the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy. In the future, the Semester will be the main instrument for delivering the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar provides a new framework for social policy at the EU level and includes a priority on housing and assistance for the homeless (priority 19/20).

What can we learn from the 2017 Semester about the European Union’s role in tackling homelessness and housing exclusion? More importantly, what can we take away from this year to ensure the 2018 European Semester becomes a significant factor in the fight against homelessness?

The 2017 European Semester proves that the European Commission has the ability to monitor homelessness and housing exclusion in the Member States and point out worrying trends. Positive elements are notably:
– Homelessness is flagged as a concern in several Country Reports.
– The social outcomes of housing systems in Member States receive more attention in the Country Reports.
– The social impact of rising house prices is recognised in some Country Reports.
– Evolutions in rental prices are better captured than in previous years.
– Policy measures to address homelessness and housing exclusion receive more attention in the Country Reports.
– There is evidence of a partial “socialisation” of the European Semester.
FEANTSA urges the European Union to monitor homelessness and benchmark progress at a Member State level. With this third demand of our campaign, we want homelessness to become an integral part of social analysis carried out by the European Commission.

Unfortunately, the 2017 European Semester also shows how the European Commission is not taking a truly active role in tackling housing exclusion and homelessness. FEANTSA regrets that:
– Member States have paid less attention to homelessness in the National Reform Programmes
– There is a lack of Country Specific Recommendations on homelessness or housing exclusion.
– Housing continues to be considered as predominantly a “good” rather than a right.

The 2017 European Semester leaves us with three pertinent questions. First of all, is there a risk of “social wash” in the European Semester? Is the social focus of the Semester exaggerated to address criticisms of the social impact of the EU’s macroeconomic and fiscal coordination measures? Secondly, will the EU fill the capacity-gap on social analysis, which risks to seriously undermine a genuinely social Semester? Finally, does the Semester process, which is currently much determined by political negotiations between the Member States and the European Commission, allow for a consistent and coherent quality social analysis?

FEANTSA urges the European Union to truly stand up for homeless people. The EU can learn lessons from the 2017 Semester and use the 2018 Semester as an effective tool in the fight against homelessness. FEANTSA:
– calls on Member States to report on policies and measures to address homelessness and housing exclusion as an integral part of efforts to tackle poverty and social exclusion in the framework of the National Reform Programme.
– calls on Commission services to build on considerable progress made in 2017 to analyse the housing situation in Member States from a social perspective, including through taking stock of homelessness and housing exclusion.
– calls on the European Commission to balance the consideration of housing from a macroeconomic and financial perspective with one of housing as a social right in the European Semester.
– calls on European Commission services to work with us as a source of up-to-date and accurate information on homelessness and housing exclusion developments in Member States.
– calls on Member States and the European Commission to act to address the existing capacity-gap on social analysis in the context of the Semester.

Want to know more? Read the full FEANTSA Position Paper “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly. A Housing and Homelessness Perspective on the 2017 European Semester” here.

Be Fair, Europe! Stand Up for Homeless People.

Posted in EU Funds

World Homeless Day and 60 years of ESF. A Time for Optimism?  

Freek 1


Guest editor: Freek Spinnewijn, FEANTSA Director

World Homeless Day, October 10, is an important day for FEANTSA. For us it is an occasion to take stock and to celebrate projects tackling homelessness across Europe. These inspiring projects bring a positive change in the lives of numerous homeless people. Having said this, homelessness is still rising dramatically in the majority of European countries. Therefore, 10 October is also a day to stand up and hold governments accountable for their failure to guarantee the right to housing for all citizens. FEANTSA especially urges the European Union to make sure that no one is left behind.

This year we organised a workshop and our very own FEANTSA 2017 Ending Homelessness Awards. The workshop offered an opportunity to share experiences of ESIF-funding for projects aimed at ending homelessness. We had speakers from Italy, Finland and Czech Republic. Moreover, the workshop proved that European funding for homelessness projects and programmes is worth the investment. That is why we ask the EU to invest more of its funds in ending homelessness. This is the fifth and final demand of our manifesto.

To showcase the wonderful work that has been done with funding of the European Social Fund, FEANTSA organised the 2017 Ending Homelessness Awards. We were honoured to be able to hold these during the RegioStars Awards and to have the European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Creţu, award the prize to the winner. Furthermore, we were heartened to hear the Commissioner state that the right to a home is on the same level as the right to free movement and free speech.

Who were the winners of the FEANTSA 2017 Ending Homelessness Awards? The bronze prize went to the Glasgow Homelessness Network with its Housing First Transition project. Silver was for A Home that Fits of the Helsinki City Youth Department. The first prize was given to the Statutory City of Brno for its Ending Family Homelessness through Housing First project. An explanation of these projects can be found in our Handbook.

2017 marks 60 years of ESF. On World Homeless Day, we celebrated impressive projects that prevent and tackle homelessness with European funding. Despite the efforts of all individuals and organisations behind these projects, more still needs to be done. Millions of citizens face a precarious living situation and inadequate policy responses and welfare cuts across the continent risk pushing even more people into homelessness. That is why FEANTSA urges the European Union to take an active role in preventing and fighting homelessness.

Be Fair, Europe! Stand Up for Homeless People.

Posted in Youth Homelessness

Why a Youth Homelessness Awareness Week?

Guest editors: Tess Vanacker, FEANTSA Communications Assistant & Chloé Serme-Morin, FEANTSA Project Officer

All across Europe, young people have been particularly affected by the budget cuts and austerity policies of the last few years. A large number of the under 30s in Europe are excluded from the housing market or are inadequately housed. They represent 20-30% of the total number of homeless people in most European countries.

This trend is particularly worrying. Young people experience homelessness differently than adults. The causes and conditions are different, so the responses and solutions must be different as well. Therefore, FEANTSA organised a Youth Homelessness Awareness Week on social media. Throughout the week, we highlighted our member Focus Ireland’s campaign about youth homelessness, as well as a report of the London Assembly revealing revolting numbers of young homeless people in the UK.

We did not only seek to raise awareness, however. We also want to actively contribute to finding structural solutions for youth homelessness. Together with the Fondation Abbé Pierre, we launched a Report on housing solutions for vulnerable young people transitioning to independence. The report offers an overview of three kinds of affordable housing initiatives for young people in vulnerable situations all over Europe. Some of these initiatives are based on a Housing First approach. Housing First for youth projects grant immediate access to housing with no preconditions, value youth voice, youth choice, self-determination and positive youth development, offer individualised and client-driven support and actively work on social and community integration.

Though we strongly celebrate such initiatives, we cannot count on them to tackle youth homelessness alone. The European Union must develop a realistic strategy to end all forms of poverty. Furthermore, the EU must urgently deal with youth homelessness. Earlier in the year, FEANTSA developed a Roadmap for EU Youth Policy under the framework of our campaign Be Fair, Europe – Stand Up for Homeless People! We urge everyone to follow our campaign and to stand up for homeless young people.

Be Fair, Europe. Stand Up For Young Homeless People.