Regions and cities are calling on the European Commission to provide more support to all levels of government in the endeavour to end homelessness in Europe by 2030. In a debate with Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) welcomed the establishment of the European Platform for Combating Homelessness. An opinion adopted by the plenary session today underlines the role of local and regional authorities in developing a housing-led approach and a right mix of prevention measures that address both structural and personal causes of homelessness.
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “With homelessness on the rise, action at European level is urgently needed. We have to work in solidarity to find solutions that are right for each town, each city, each region. The EU wants to tackle this issue head-on, which is why we launched in June the European Platform on Combating Homelessness. Earlier this week we had the first formal meeting of this new Platform with participants sharing best practices and discussing different approaches. I am optimistic that if we pull together and learn from each other we can drastically reduce the numbers of people experiencing homelessness, and help these people re-integrate back into society.”
Vasco Alves Cordeiro, First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions and Member of the Azores Regional Parliament, said: “Homelessness has seen an increase of 70% in the last 10 years in Europe and the Covid-19 pandemic brought more challenges to deal with the situation. The European Committee of the Regions, through its role in the European Platform on Combating Homelessness, launched during the Portuguese presidency, will be a valuable ally and a strong advocate for the local and regional dimension. Affordable and sustainable housing must become a priority of Europe’s recovery plan to make the European Pillar of Social Rights a reality.”
The CoR is represented in the Steering Board of the Platform by Mikko Aaltonen (FI/PES), Vice-Chair of Tampere City Council, who has led the Committee's work on this topic. The opinion adopted after the plenary session debate calls for an EU-wide definition of homelessness and urges the Platform to facilitate transnational exchanges and mutual learning, to promote access to EU funding and financing opportunities and to improve data collection and monitoring of policy progress. The CoR urges that place-based and housing-led solutions, such as the Housing First approach, complemented by personalised social support services, are implemented in a sustained and systemic manner. It underlines that eradicating homelessness must be part of a policy mix of the right prevention measures that also address issues like unemployment, poverty, poor living conditions, social action against domestic violence and addictions.
Rapporteur Aaltonen emphasised: "Homelessness can be addressed successfully through place-based, housing-led solutions, complemented by personalized social support at grassroots level. Local and regional authorities are instrumental in the successful implementation of the Housing First approach, which must not be conditional upon individuals' attainment of specific goals before accessing secure accommodation. At the same time, this should be part of a comprehensive approach that effectively addresses the root causes of homelessness on an individual basis. Action at local and regional level is crucial also in terms of prevention, helping those who are most vulnerable and at risk of becoming homeless. Promoting access to EU funding and financing opportunities, as well as facilitating transnational exchanges and mutual learning are key enablers for local and regional authorities so that they can play their role to the full in the eradication of homelessness."
Kjell Larsson, President of the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), added: "FEANTSA welcomes the timely report of the Committee of the Regions on homelessness. It is very important to have the most important body representing local and regional authorities in Europe call for ambitious action at EU level to progress towards ending homelessness. FEANTSA is happy and keen to take on a coordinating role in the new EU Platform on Homelessness as suggested by the Committee of the Regions in its opinion."
The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) and Foundation Abbé Pierre estimate that there are 700 000 persons in Europe sleeping rough or in emergency housing conditions in 2020, representing an increase of 70 % in the last ten years.
There is no uniform definition or system for monitoring in the EU. Member States define and measure homelessness differently. The narrow interpretation would simply include those sleeping rough, but broader interpretations might include squatters and those occupying buildings illegally, those who face housing insecurity (for example, very short-term temporary arrangements), those whose housing conditions are below par (for example very rough slums), or to some extent even those who are staying at friends' and relatives' houses and those suffering from domestic abuse.
Combatting homelessness is enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights, particularly "Principle 19. Housing and assistance for the homeless" under "Chapter III: Social protection and inclusion". The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, which was signed during the Porto Summit in May 2021 under the Portuguese Presidency of the Council, has the main target of "a reduction of at least 15 million in the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion". On 21 June 2021, the European Commission and the Portuguese EU Council Presidency launched the European Platform on Combating Homelessness to trigger dialogue, facilitate mutual learning, improve evidence and monitoring, and strengthen cooperation among all actors that aim to combat homelessness.
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