Ending Homelessness in Europe
The European federation against homelessness, Feantsa, is a central plattform where organizations from across Europe can share knowledge, best practices, and together push forward towards a national strategy to end homelessness. Here are a few stories from the network, with Housing first in focus.
Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless link
When UK based Homeless Link started with Housing first in 2012, only nine agencies worked with the model. Today 50 Housing first agencies exist in the network, and during the same time period, funding of Housing first has increased from 2 million to 40 million pounds.
Rick Henderson, CEO of Homeless link, says one of Homeless links current projects, Housing First England, is aiming to increase the service further. The project works with training, funding, and producing information material.
“We want to encourage more organizations to start up Housing first services. We also work with housing authorities to find more apartments across the UK”, Henderson said.
In Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, Housing first pilot projects have been initiated by the local authorities.
Henderson, who has been chief executive since July 2012 and also is a member of the government’s National Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel, was hoping for the pilot projects to be permanent services from start.
“We already know that Housing first is a model with good scientific evidence, so we are hopeful that after this trial period, the projects will become mainstream in these cities”, Henderson said.
Melanie Schmit, Chairwoman of Housing First Netherlands
In the Netherlands, around 21 organizations in different cities provide Housing first services. “Results are successful,” Melanie Schmit from the independent network organization Housing First Netherlands, said. ”Almost all providers have 80-90 percent housing sustainability.”
The aim of Housing First Netherlands is now to unite all the care providers and also to work with policies and decision makers. Besides promoting and scaling up Housing first across the Netherlands, Housing first Netherlands also support workers by sharing knowledge, experiences and results from across the country.
“I think many Housing first providers, not only in Netherlands but also across Europe, struggle with more or less the same issues. Affordable housing for people with low income is one clear example,” Schmit said.
Another aspect we should consider is if more housing is the answer or if we should rearrange the existing housing stock, Schmit added.
“I think we need to be more creative with what we have and we need to work more on finding alternative housing solutions,” she said.
The big goal for Housing first Netherlands is to find best practices for how to scale up Housing first and in the future to have a national strategy based on housing first to end homelessness.
“For me, it would be a dream if all municipalities in the Netherlands used Housing first as the main response homelessness”, Schmit said.
Ruth Owen, Policy Coordinator at Feantsa
“I think one key to the success of Housing First is that it is based on the simple idea that, if people are homeless, they need a house and that should be the starting point of ending homelessness”, Ruth Owen said.
That simplicity has a powerful impact on both a personal and a national level Owen said, referring to the housing crisis that we are currently experiencing across the European Union.
“As a service model, Housing First can make a huge difference in people’s lives and can be a new way of offering services to a vulnerable target group,” She said. “In the bigger picture, it also puts housing exclusion and the right to housing for everyone at the center of the response to end homelessness.”
While social workers, organizations and governments are trying to move toward a Housing first way of working, or to start and scale up Housing first services, they all face more or less the same challenges. The European Hub for Housing first, a part of Feantsa, serves as a meeting place to gather these organizations to share experiences, challenges and recent results.
“There is an awful lot of systems to overcome and there is resistance in many contexts. There is also the challenge of finding suitable housing. But, a lot of work has already been done, so it is great to be able to benefit from what other people have done rather than each starting from scratch on their own”, Owen said.
As the model has become more successful, many services are now perhaps incorrectly labeled as Housing first, and there is a risk that Housing first could become a victim of its own success.
“The European commission promotes Housing first and you can get funding to implement it. Governments have recognized that Housing first is a model that works and have embraced it, although sometimes in a slightly tokenistic way,” Owen said. “Hence, it is important that there is a movement, a group, or a hub, that can work collectively to safeguard the model and the uniqueness of its simple idea.”