Joint organiser: Belgian Federal Public Planning Service for Social Integration

Centred on preventing and fighting homelessness, this Policy Lab was introduced by Ms. Meryame Kitir, Minister of Major Cities Policy, and Ms. Karine Lalieux, Minister for Social Integration and the Fight against Poverty. The event launched the cooperation between the two different ministers on the topic, breaking down silos to adopt an integrated approach on this complex issue.

The Policy Lab featured a presentation on a study of the current state of homelessness in the EU, which was recently carried out by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Acknowledging that homelessness is increasing all over Europe, related Belgian and international projects were presented in workshops organised around three themes: Housing First, collective housing and youth homelessness.

Examples from Belgian, Dutch, French and Scottish cities and NGOs were shared, outlining lessons learned and fostering rich discussions among participants. These will be taken forward by the Belgian authorities as they continue developing public policies to prevent and fight homelessness. The Policy Lab shed light on the necessity of adopting an integrated approach to tackle this multi-factor issue, through multi-level and cooperative governance focusing on improving the lives of homeless individuals.

Expert contributions

Introduction

Meryame Kitir, Minister of Major Cities Policy

Social inequality has increased with the pandemic, and homelessness is also on the rise. Acknowledging the Housing First principle, meaning that housing policies include tailor-made supervision and guidance as well as providing living space, the Ministry has prioritised Housing First programmes focusing on combating youth homelessness. Exceptional measures will be adopted in these exceptional times, so that homeless people can identify a personally tailored way out of crisis. These will include guidance on finding routes out of homelessness and gaining self-confidence. 

 

Introduction

Karine Lalieux, Minister for Social Integration and the Fight against Poverty

With the support of initiatives from the King Baudouin Foundation, along with local governments and associations, data showing a tremendous increase in homelessness have been collected across various Belgian cities. To fight this trend, researchers can play a key role. By collecting and analysing data, they can support local authorities designing targeted policies and nourish exchanges between policy-makers. A multi-level, integrated approach is also key for developing successful policies, which should combine homelessness prevention, access to housing and social support. By consolidating interministerial and intergovernmental cooperation in Belgium, this Policy Lab marks an important step in the fight against homelessness.

State of play in Europe

Sjoerdje van Heerden, Joint Research Centre, European Commission

Homelessness levels have risen in most parts of Europe over the last decade. Data shows there are more homeless people in urban areas than in rural zones or small cities, although there’s a lack of comprehensive data which would allow for better monitoring. Effective homelessness strategies include prevention and early intervention, quality homelessness service delivery, rapid re-housing, systematic data collection, monitoring and using shared definitions (ETHOS typology). It’s important to hold the private sector to account via regulated rents and binding conditions when public funding is addressed. Tackling homelessness requires integrated intervention and a person-orientated approach.

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Housing First

Rafael Bouloudine, Working First Marseille; Laurent Ciaccia, Housing First Charleroi

The presentations from Marseille and Charleroi shed light on two major aspects related to Housing First. Firstly, social integration is crucial to avoid people’s isolation and potential psychological problems, so activities to support mental health in homelessness can be beneficial. Secondly, both projects highlight that Housing First should be complementary to Working First, ensuring that individuals can access work experience and the opportunity to trust in and develop their capabilities.

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Collective Housing

David de Goede, De Tussenvorziening Utrecht; Yves Kempeneers, Kadans Wonen Antwerp

Dutch national housing policy has recently been emphasised, but there’s a widespread lack of implementation. In Utrecht, homeless people and others with mental health problems support each other. Housing First criteria have to be fulfilled, with proper guidance so groups fighting loneliness and local residents agree on implementation. Then, there are high chances of programme success. The Antwerp project KADANS wonen works to holistically improve homeless people’s living conditions, by promoting collective living with individual homes and fostering activities and neighbourhood bonds, so that individuals with a history of causing nuisance problems are reinserted into the social and care systems.

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Youth Homelessness

Gary Neil, Rock Trust Edinburg; Wouter Vanclooster, Back on Track Kortrijk

The Rock Trust works to ensure that every young person in Scotland has access to expert youth-specific services to assist them in avoiding, surviving and moving on from homelessness. Providing immediate access to housing with no pre-conditions is vital, with guidance given via a wellness-orientated and empowering approach. Through the project Back on Track Kortrijk, Belgian homelessness is tackled mainly via a strategy of prevention, housing renewal and collaboration between the public and private sectors. Moreover, guidance for young homeless people is given via an optimistic and network-orientated approach, supporting young people to gain perspective and maintain hope.

 

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