European institutions, EU governments and civil society have for the first time committed to working together towards combatting homelessness in the EU. At a high-level conference in Lisbon today, they launched the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness to trigger dialogue, facilitate mutual learning, improve evidence and monitoring, and strengthen cooperation among all actors that aim to combat homelessness.
Combatting homelessness – a priority for Social Europe
The high-level conference in Lisbon is co-organised by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA). At the event, national ministers as well as representatives of EU institutions, civil society organisations, social partners and cities signed the ‘Lisbon Declaration on the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness‘ launching the Platform. They all pledged to work together under the umbrella of the platform and to deliver actions within their respective competences.
Portuguese Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security Ana Mendes Godinho said: “We need to seriously tackle homelessness and give back human rights to people who have lost hope. We are very proud to have the Lisbon Declaration on the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness signed by the EU member states during our Presidency. We really believe that a stronger social Europe is a Europe where social rights belong to all, and where everybody has a voice and lives in dignity.”
The platform launch is the beginning of a process to establish a common understanding and commitment and ensure concrete progress in member states in the fight against homelessness. It offers an opportunity to engage and work with local actors, including cities and service providers. This will enable all actors to better exchange their knowledge and practices, and identify efficient and innovative approaches, to make progress on eradicating homelessness.
Goodwill Ambassador for the fight against homelessness and chair of the Steering Board of the new platform Yves Leterme said: “The fight against homelessness can only be won if we work together: local authorities, regional and national governments and European institutions. The involvement of civil society organisations, the social economy and people with experience of homelessness is also of utmost importance. We need to work towards integrated approaches that combine prevention, access to housing and the provision of enabling support services. We want to combat homelessness because housing is a right for every woman, man and child.”
In the Declaration signed today, they agreed on the following objectives:
- No one sleeps rough for lack of accessible, safe and appropriate emergency accommodation;
- no one lives in emergency or transitional accommodation longer than is required for successful move-on to a permanent housing solution;
- no one is discharged from any institution (e.g. prison, hospital, care facility) without an offer of appropriate housing;
- evictions should be prevented whenever possible and no one is evicted without assistance for an appropriate housing solution, when needed, and;
- no one is discriminated due to their homelessness status.
EU funding is available to support inclusive policy measures aiming at combatting homelessness. Member States will invest an important proportion of their European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) allocations to support social inclusion and poverty reduction. InvestEU also offers opportunities to support investment in social infrastructure, including social housing.
The new platform is also a concrete deliverable of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. It helps to deliver on the renewed commitment of EU institutions, member states, civil society and social partners taken at the Porto Social Summit in May to support a strong social Europe and a fair and inclusive recovery from the pandemic.
Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said: “Homelessness is the most extreme form of social exclusion and it has been growing across the EU. We must act now. The European Platform on Combatting Homelessness will help partners to share experiences and policy measures that have worked in their regions and cities, so we can radically reduce homelessness in Europe. Housing and assisting the homeless is Principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights – and it is a moral imperative if we are serious about building a fair and inclusive society.”
Ending Homelessness Award 2021
During the high-level conference, three projects from EU Member States, which have been supported by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), have received the Ending Homelessness Award 2021. In the third edition of the Ending Homelessness Awards, the goal was to raise awareness about the opportunities in the new Multiannual Financial Framework to tackle homelessness effectively. The ‘Housing First’ project for the Moravian-Silesian Region in Czechia involving a wide range of services and activities is the Gold Prize winner. The Portuguese project ‘É Uma Mesa’ that promotes the social integration of homeless people by providing them training, job referrals and employment is the Silver Prize winner and Italy won the Bronze Prize with ‘Housing First’ Trieste project.
The European Pillar of Social Rights sets out 20 key principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in the 21st century. Principle 19 on ‘Housing and assistance for the homeless’ covers issues like access to social housing, appropriate assistance and protection against forced eviction and adequate shelter and services to the homeless to promote their social inclusion.
In the Porto Declaration, EU leaders committed to “reducing inequalities, defending fair wages, fighting social exclusion and tackling poverty, taking on the objective of fighting child poverty and addressing the risks of exclusion for particularly vulnerable social groups such as the long-term unemployed, the elderly, persons with disabilities and the homeless.”
In the Porto Social Commitment, partners called on all relevant actors to “develop public policies that, at the appropriate level, strengthen social cohesion, fight against all forms of discrimination, including in the world of work, and promote equal opportunities for all, particularly addressing children at risk of poverty, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with a migration background, disadvantaged and minority groups and the homeless”.
The European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is the EU’s main funding instrument for investing in people, worth €99.3 billion (in current prices) for 2021-2027. All EU Member States will invest at least 25% of their ESF+ resources in social inclusion and at least 3% to address material deprivation. Countries where children’s risk of poverty or social exclusion is above the EU average should use at least 5% of their ESF+ resources to tackle this issue.
Member States may also mobilize funding for affordable and social housing projects under the European Regional Development Fund, InvestEU (through its ‘Social Investment and Skills window’), as well as under their national Recovery and Resilience Plans.