PRESS RELEASE: Systemic change needed to end homelessness in Europe for good

(Photo: Raquel Sánchez Jiménez – Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda of Spain, speaking on day 1 of the conference)

PRESS RELEASE – Madrid, 29th March 2022 

Housing First is the key to unlocking systemic change to end homelessness in Europe by 2030.

That’s the central message from the inaugural conference of the Housing First Europe Hub, which took place in Madrid’s La Nave conference centre from 28-29th March, 2022.

Supported by the City of Madrid, the two-day conference brought together 244 policymakers, researchers, housing providers, practitioners and advocates from 15 countries, who gathered to plan how to build on the successes of Housing First. The participants were committed to implementing Housing First as an overall approach that puts the fundamental right to housing at the heart of policies to end homelessness across Europe.

Speakers at the conference included policymakers from the national and European level: European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicholas Schmit; former Belgian Prime Minister, Yves Leterme; Ione Belarra, Spanish Minister for Social Rights and Agenda 2030; Raquel Sánchez Jiménez, Spanish Minister for Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda; Meryame Kitir, Belgian Federal Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities, and Manuel Pizarro, Member of the European Parliament for Portugal.

Local policymakers taking part in the discussion included Mikko Aaltonen, City Councillor from Tampere in Finland, and member of the European Committee of the Regions; Renaud Payre, Vice President of the Lyon Metropolitan Area in France; Adam Zábranský, Councillor from the City of Prague in the Czech Republic, and Andy Burnham, Mayor for Greater Manchester, UK.

Leaders of NGOs from across the European continent also spoke about how to reorient existing policies to effectively end homelessness, including Marian Juste, President of HOGAR SÍ in Spain; Matthew Downie, CEO of Crisis UK; Juha Kaakinen, outgoing CEO of Y-Säätiö/Y-Foundation in Finland; among others.

A new systems change perspective to ending homelessness

The conference also saw the official launch of a new joint report by Demos Helsinki and the Housing First Europe Hub, which aims to uncover and illustrate how seeing Housing First through the lens of governance – rather than policy – can provide a compass to navigate the complexity of homelessness, and learn how to advance the ambitious goal of eliminating it regardless of the situation and context a country may face.

Juha Leppänen, Chief Executive of Demos Helsinki said “Housing First should be seen as a model for governance that intends to eliminate homelessness, not manage it. In our increasingly complex and interconnected world, innovations in governance are needed to solve systemic problems. Housing First can serve as an inspiration for finding a way forward and learning how to overcome the other great societal challenges of our time.”

Homelessness in Europe

Approximately 700,000 people are homeless in Europe on any given night and Europe is facing a growing homelessness crisis. Widening socio-economic inequality, widespread lack of affordable housing, and lack of investment in social policy are critical factors that contribute to this phenomenon. Individual programmes and scattered initiatives designed to combat the increasing numbers of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness have so far been unable to solve the crisis. A coordinated, systemic shift is needed, with the necessary long-term funding and political support to make lasting change.

“During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, governments across Europe proved that it is possible to take swift and decisive action to quickly house those in need. What we are asking for now is to build on the social policy successes of the pandemic, and continue to sustain the political momentum needed to end homelessness in Europe for good by 2030. Housing First is the only evidence-based approach consistently proven to support service users in successfully sustaining their tenancies in 70-90% of cases. There has never been a better time to implement a systemic shift that positions Housing First at the centre of homelessness policy responses in Europe.” said Samara Jones, Coordinator of the Housing First Europe Hub.

– ENDS —

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