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:
- Better monitoring of homelessness at member state level
- The vindication of the rights of homeless people
- 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: