3 million homeless people in Europe and the situation is worsening
Researchers at the University of Limerick are playing a key role in a major EU-funded programme to tackle homelessness in Europe. UL researchers, Dr Ronni Greenwood and Dr Rachel Manning from the Department of Psychology are involved in the project, Homelessness as Unfairness (HOME_EU), which aims to understand EU citizens’ perceptions of homelessness and find solutions based on the ‘Housing First’ model. Dr Greenwood and Dr Manning have been specifically tasked with working with service users to better understand the experiences of homeless people in different kinds of homeless services.
Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, the project will see twelve organisations and institutions from nine European countries involved. The initiative will gather opinions and testimonials from citizens, service users, providers and policy actors, to provide evidence to advocate for the integration of Housing First in European policies to tackle homelessness.
The innovation of Housing First as a model comes from the reversal of the traditional ‘staircase’ model of homelessness services, which predominates in many European countries. The staircase model requires homeless persons to show evidence of being ‘housing ready’ before they are offered long-term stable accommodation, which hinders reversibility of the phenomenon.
Housing First has no housing “readiness” requirements. Instead, Housing First programmes place homeless people directly into independent housing integrated into the community. The model has proved that the vast majority of homeless people, including the very most vulnerable, can sustain a tenancy as long as appropriate support is offered.
Housing First provides people experiencing homelessness with permanent housing as quickly as possible and then provides voluntary supportive services as needed.
There are approximately 3 million homeless people in Europe and it’s estimated that 410,000 people sleep on the streets of European cities every night.
In 15 out of 21 European countries (including Ireland) homelessness has worsened in the last five years, with an increasing number of women, youth, families and migrants experiencing homelessness. Currently, over 7,600 people are homeless in Ireland of whom over 2,700 are children (as of April 2017).*
Research shows that homelessness blocks people’s capabilities, undermines their physical and mental health and wellbeing, and decreases their life expectancy. Among homeless persons, life expectancy is as much as 30 years shorter than in the general population.
Internationally recognised evidence demonstrates that access to regular, scattered and integrated housing in the community is a cost effective, concrete response that not only ends homelessness but also enhances access to healthcare, social inclusion and other basic social rights.
Dr Ronni Greenwood, Department of Psychology at the University of Limerick and the former Assistant Director of Pathways Housing First, New York said “Evidence from Europe and North America has repeatedly shown that providing homeless individuals with independent accommodation ends homelessness, and costs less too.
“However, mainstream homeless interventions still operate on the assumption that homeless people are not housing-ready. The predominant approach works to rehabilitate people first by tackling drug addictions or mental illness.”
“Ultimately, housing is a human right and without a home, people become stigmatised and cannot integrate properly with their communities. The root cause of homelessness is a lack of adequate, affordable housing with supports. In our research, we seek to understand how the perceptions and attitudes of citizens, service providers and stakeholders can impact buy-in to this new model to tackle long-term homelessness.”