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European platform to combat homelessness is launched

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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.

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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.

Background

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.

More information

Lisbon Declaration on the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness

Ending Homelessness Award 2021

Latest information on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan

EU borders

New report highlights #refugees in Europe

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The European Foundation for Democracy is a Brussels-based policy institute dedicated to upholding Europe’s fundamental values of freedom and equality, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. This week they launched their report "Refugees in Europe - Review of Intergration Practices and Policies".

The report says:  "One of the greatest challenges facing twenty first century Europe is the mass migration and integration of refugees who cross borders in search of safer lives. This report analyses the wide-ranging issues relating to the integration of refugees in seven European countries and presents our key findings – both in terms of good practices and areas for concern – as well as recommendations for change.

Although the 2015 migration crisis has subsided, a number of issues related to the crisis persist, challenging the liberal democratic values, safety and socio-economic cohesion of Europe. It is increasingly evident that these problems will endure and, in some instances, worsen over time. Given this, the European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) undertook this research project, conscious that the way Europe copes with the refugee crisis will have a lasting impact on European societies, as well as on how successfully the European Union (EU) will stay true to the values and principles which define it. The aim of this report is to present measures for improvement on a national and Europe-wide level, offering macro and micro recommendations based on research carried out across seven countries. Our research reveals that a delay will not only allow current issues to persist, but will also prove costlier for Europe; should policymakers fail to invest in long-term integration policies now, the resources which will be required to fix future problems will be considerably more.

The key findings of this report are based on qualitative research carried out in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. In order to obtain
a general snapshot of the integration procedures of Europe, we conducted interviews and workshops with refugees, government officials and civil society actors. This offers considerable value-added as the majority of previous studies conducted on this topic are based on secondary sources. Our main time frame dates from 2015 until the present day, though some statistical data and integration policies pre-date 2015. For each country researched, we analysed existing policies and good practices, as well as bad practices or policies, which produce undesirable results.

In determining the key findings, we analysed policies and practices relating to: socio-cultural integration within the liberal-democratic framework; socio-economic integration in the education sector/labour market; and social inclusion within host communities. Based on these results, we found common practices and issues present across our research countries. "
Read the full report at
http://europeandemocracy.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-Refugees-In-Europe-Full-Version.pdf

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FEANTSA calls attention to women’s #homelessness on #InternationalWomensDay 

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homeless-woman-1024x298Women’s homelessness is on the rise in multiple European countries with particularly striking increases in France, where there has been a 22% rise in women requesting emergency accommodation, and Ireland, where there was a 28% rise in women accessing homeless services between January 2016 and January 2017.

Research suggests that in the case of women, there is a gender-specific dimension to their experiences with high levels of childhood trauma, violence and sexual violence. Most studies highlight the complex nature of women’s homelessness and the overlap between women’s homelessness and other support needs – for example, mental health issues, domestic violence, drug use and trauma. Women who are homeless have a number of severe, interrelated and exceptionally complex problems, which contribute to their homelessness and make recovery challenging.

This intersection between homelessness and other support needs highlights the importance of coordinated responses to homelessness that are sensitised to gender differences associated with the process of becoming homeless and the experience of homelessness itself.

There are many encouraging signs that the homeless sector is currently shifting away from reactive approaches such as providing shelter, food and clothes towards more longer-term solutions such as permanent housing and support around the individual’s needs.

Two new approaches have arisen to address homelessness. Evaluations across Europe show that Housing First provides the best model of resolving homelessness for around 80% of homeless people with complex needs. It is a model that initially provides a relatively secure tenancy, and then combines that with supportive treatment services in the areas of mental and physical health, substance abuse, education and employment. Housing First evaluations in Europe show that projects have had a high success rate in keeping people in housing.

Another example of effective intervention is the use of Psychologically Informed Environments (PIEs), an approach that involves remodelling services in order to address identified emotional and psychological issues amongst homeless people. PIEs have also achieved significant positive change for people experiencing multiple exclusion/deprivation and with histories of compound trauma in terms of improved housing outcomes, improved behaviours, improved use of services, and improved mental health. This approach has so far primarily been applied in the UK and Ireland.

Both the above mentioned innovative models have been implemented largely without a gender lens.

Why is it important to have gendered approach?

FEANTSA Director Freek Spinnewijn states that “It is time to make specific plans to end women’s homelessness and to adopt a gendered approach to ending homelessness. We need to move from stating problems to taking action, integrating research into practice and policy. We also need a better understanding the routes and transition points in and out of women’s homelessness in order to prevent and to end homelessness. It is imperative to break the cycle of violence, trauma, mental health problems and homelessness that so many women face.”

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Alcohol

EU alcohol strategy must address alcohol-related health inequalities affecting homeless population

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140930-alcohol-homeless-10a_aed7b9a8d1b00909416f1d90e685ad01FEANTSA, the umbrella of not-for-profit organizations that participate in or contribute to the fight against homelessness in Europe, has welcomed the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 29 April calling for a new EU strategy to tackle alcohol related harm in Europe and calls on the European Commission to show political commitment by swiftly developing a new EU Alcohol Strategy (2016-2022).

There is a clear link between harmful alcohol consumption and homelessness. While a person may become homeless for various reasons, research shows that two-thirds of homeless people cite alcohol as a major reason for becoming homeless. There is also clear evidence that alcohol use increases as a consequence of homelessness, often used as a means of coping with the stress of homelessness. Mortality in homeless people (people who live on the street die 20 years before the general population) is an example of severe health inequalities and problematic alcohol use is a significant contributing factor to this. Problematic alcohol use accounts for more than a third of all deaths among homeless people.

Homelessness and problematic alcohol use are complex issues that need to be addressed in an integrated manner. A multi-sector approach is needed to allow for partnerships among different health and social care providers so that they can coordinate support better. While it is important to develop a variety of treatments targeting homeless people with problematic alcohol use, there is also a pressing need to provide them with other support services. Evidence shows that stable housing both during and after treatment is key to recovery and can reduce the risk of relapse.
More evidence of effective policies to combat the harmful effects of problematic alcohol use has become available since the last EU Alcohol Strategy. The new strategy should build on this evidence and ensure, through adequate funding instruments, that alcohol-related harm is addressed comprehensively. When developing action, consideration should be given to population groups experiencing severe vulnerability and that are at risk of problematic alcohol consumption.
The EU Health Strategy and the European Commission Staff Working Document, ‘Investing in Health’, recognize the importance of reducing health inequalities. The new Alcohol strategy should contribute to this by recognizing that problematic alcohol use exacerbates health inequalities, particularly among vulnerable groups such as homeless people.The European Commission should take this strong request from the European Parliament, also expressed on various occasions by member states and civil society, on board and propose a new and ambitious EU strategy to prevent and reduce problematic alcohol use and alcohol-related harm in Europe.

European Parliament Resolution calls for new EU Alcohol Strategy

On 29 April, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a Resolution calling on the European Commission to present a new EU Alcohol Strategy to tackle health harm for 2016-2022. The clear message from MEPs comes just a week after EU Health Ministers meeting in Riga called on the Commission (1) to take action on the health impacts of alcohol. Both MEPs and Ministers have criticized the Commission for failing to update the previous EU Alcohol Strategy which expired in 2012.

Today’s European Parliament Resolution calls for a new Strategy, emphasising the importance of better labeling of alcoholic drinks including ingredients and nutritional information with special focus on calories, and the need to raise awareness across the EU of the dangers of drinking during pregnancy and drink driving.

A coalition of public health organisations (2) welcomes the EP’s decision as a step towards reducing harm from alcohol in Europe. Today’s resolution – coupled with the strong view of EU Health Ministers - is a wake-up call to the European Commission to move ahead urgently with a new EU Alcohol Strategy and measures to urgently reduce the severity, scope and huge cost imposed by alcohol-related diseases across Europe, which claim 120,000 lives every year in the EU.

Alcohol-abuse is the leading risk factor for ill-health and premature death for the working age population (25-59 years) in Europe(3). The societal costs of alcohol use in Europe are in excess of €155 billion per year across the EU (4).

Alcohol-related harm costs Europe at least 2-3% of GDP, mostly from lost productivity and massive healthcare costs.“Prevention of alcohol-related harm is a smart investment for the economy, it cuts long-term healthcare expenditures and at the same time raises workforce productivity,” said Eurocare Secretary General Mariann Skar. “The Commission needs to respond to Ministers and the Parliament with a decisive new Alcohol Strategy.  The lack of a Strategy is currently undermining Europe’s efforts for jobs and growth,“ went on to say Mrs Skar.

Addressing alcohol-related harm is also crucial to reduce health inequalities, as the burden of disease and deaths related to alcohol disproportionately affect the most deprived. One of the most cost-effective ways for society to minimise the damage from alcohol consumption is a MUP, such as that proposed by the Scottish Government. This resolution also includes a reference to Minimum Unit Price (MUP) (5).

Alcohol abuse is a major public health issue in every EU country that requires coordinated action. “The Parliament vote, coupled with the call from EU Health Ministers should shame the Commission into action on alcohol. Years of EU inaction have allowed the alcohol industry to hide the harm – and even the calories – in their drinks. The Commission is currently fixated on 'Better Regulation', but what’s better about the Commission failing in its duty to protect public health?" concluded EPHA Secretary General Nina Renshaw.

Six facts on alcohol related harm

  • Alcohol is the 3rd risk factor in Europe for ill health and non-communicable diseases including some cancers and cardiovascular disease.
  • Alcohol is a toxic substance in terms of its direct and indirect effects on a wide range of body organs and a cause of some 60 diseases. Taking all diseases and injuries at global level into account, the negative health impact of alcohol consumption outweighs the benefit by 32:1.
  • 12 million people in the EU are dependent on alcohol.
  • Around 9 million children in the EU are living with one or both parents addicted to alcohol.
  • 1 in 4 road fatalities in the EU are due to alcohol. In 2010 nearly 31,000 Europeans were killed on the roads of which 25% were related to alcohol.
  • Alcohol is responsible 1 in 7 male deaths and 1 in 13 female deaths in the group aged 15–64 years, resulting in approximately 120 000 premature deaths.

(1) Health Ministers in Riga agree on the need for common EU nutrition and alcohol policies

(2)European Alcohol Policy Alliance(Eurocare), the European Public Health Alliance(EPHA), the European Association for the Study of the Liver(EASL), the European Liver Patients Association(ELPA), United European Gastroenterology(UEG) the Association of European Cancer Leagues(ECL) Standing Committee of European Doctors(CPME), Royal College of Physicians, and the British Medical Association(both from the UK).

(3)Scientific Opinion of the Science Group of the European Alcohol and Health Forum (2011)  Alcohol, Work and Productivity

(4)Rehm, J. et al (2012) Interventions for alcohol dependence in Europe: A missed opportunity to improve public health.

(5)[Joint press release] Doctors take battle to implement “Scotland the brave’s” alcohol minimum unit price policy to Brussel

Spirits sector comments on parliament resolution on EU alcohol strategy

spiritsEUROPE noted the adoption of the European Parliament Resolution on the Future EU Alcohol Strategy.  In particular, the Parliament’s focus on tackling alcohol harm rather than on alcohol consumption per se is correct, and MEPs’ emphasis on the contexts and patterns of alcohol consumption are also very welcome.

“We welcome the Parliament’s interest and we welcome the majority of the proposals they make,” said Paul Skehan, Director General of spiritsEUROPE.  “We support the MEPs’ calls for better research, for better collection of data and for sharing evidence.  In particular, the spirits sector applauds the Parliamentarians’ call for appropriate strategies to tackle the problem of alcohol counterfeiting as well as illegal and black market sales of alcohol.”

The spirits sector has contributed to 374 initiatives aimed at tackling harmful use of alcohol across the EU since the inception of the European Alcohol and Health Forum in 2007.  Working to address harm at local level, in partnerships with local police, licensing authorities, ministries for health and others, is producing results.

Skehan concluded: “We are pleased the European Parliament invites the Commission to build on the good work achieved over the past eight years and we will continue to play our part to foster a culture of responsible drinking in Europe”.

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