European Platform on Combatting Homelessness

Author: Delia Postiglione

Sharing is caring: EU reacts to homelessness

The Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union is at its final stages, yet one of its recent acts has been a remarkable final achievement of its legacy: the launch of the European Platform to combat homelessness.

In accordance with its motto “Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery”, Portugal’s Presidency has been working to address its major priorities throughout a post pandemic crisis scenario. Climate and digital transitions as well as the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights have been leading the Presidency’s action policies as evidenced by last 21st of June commitment to fight homelessness in the EU.

The target was sealed in the so-called Lisbon Declaration on the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness signed by national ministers, representatives of EU institutions, civil society organisations, cities and socio-economic partners among which Social Economy Europe President, Juan Antonio Pedreño and European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit who observed:

“Homelessness is the most extreme form of social exclusion, and it has been growing across the EU.

We must act now.”

Indeed, homelessness is an increasing phenomenon both across Europe and globally, as it is reported by the statistics of the OECD Affordable Housing Database which registered a raise in share of people without home in some European countries (such as France, Portugal, and the Netherlands), during the past decades and due to Covid-19 outbreak.

These are just some data mirroring a reality of around 700,000 people sleeping rough or in emergency shelters, every night in Europe. Shocking figures that bring up the awareness of a socio-economic issue which affect our entire society marginalising and excluding people in need. Containing the problem is even harder because of the heterogeneity of homeless population which means a variety of concurrent causes. At European level, the ETHOS Light project carried on by the European Federation of National Organizations Working with the Homeless – FEANTSA, identified six categories of homeless people. Among them, two groups can be highlighted, “people living temporarily in conventional housing with family and friends” and “people living in Institutions”, which give us the idea of the extent of the fact.

Moving from this context, the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness has the purpose of promoting policies based on a people-centred, housing-led and integrated approach, sharing experiences and measures that have worked in other regions and cities. Moreover, as Commissioner Schmit explained, it represents a political dialogue in order to establish common understanding, commitment and concrete progress in Member States. The initiative of the Portugal’s Presidency and the other signatories of the Declaration is aligned with article 3 of the Treaty of the EU on fighting social exclusion and promote social cohesion, principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights on social housing and housing assistance, and 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals on ending poverty and ensuring affordable housing. It sets some principles to tackle this phenomenon among which prevention of eviction, no discrimination for homeless status, no lack of accessible, safe and appropriate emergency accommodation.

Furthermore, during the High-Level Conference in Lisbon, the Ending Homeless Award 3rd Edition 2021 has been celebrated.

Housing First for the Moravian-Silesian Region, from Czech Republic (run by Romodrom o.p.s. and Nová Možnost, z.ú.), É Uma Mesa, from Portugal (run by Crescer Na Maior, Associação de Intervenção Comunitária), and  Housing First Trieste from Italy (run by Fondazione Diocesana Caritas Trieste Onlus) have been rewarded by FEANTSA.

Indeed, these are not the only brilliant examples of how social economy can play a decisive role in the change. Some other good practices have been pinpointed by FEANTSA such as Torreao Restaurant, in Porto, where homeless people are trained and hired; The Rambler Studios, in Amsterdam, involve homeless youth in the entire process of how to design clothes with the aim of letting people discover their own talents; in the UK, Connection Crew works in partnership with a homeless service to provide people with technical expertise in organising events, shows and productions.

Social economy can be a vital backing to the homeless sector thanks to its purposes such as providing supportive environments, skills development, empowerment, confidence building, and awareness raise. However, the dark side of the coin shows a tough reality where social actors have to face market pressure in competing against private corporations or high costs in training. For these reasons, social economy needs a coupling with governments and EU policies to get visibility and concrete financial boost.

More than a goal the platform is in itself a “starting point”, as said by Ana Mendes Godinho – Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security – “a giant leap, but also the beginning of a long, constant, responsible and consistent journey we will make together”. Social economy greatly welcomes the initiative and it is at the forefront to raise anchor towards a more inclusive European peninsula.


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