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.