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.

 

 

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Posted in EU Policy

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

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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?  

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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.

Posted in 2030 Agenda

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.

Posted in EU Urban Agenda

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:

 

Posted in Trends & Statistics

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