By Max Clarke

Homelessness continues to affect millions of people across all EU Member States. While street homelessness is perhaps the most visible and extreme form of poverty and social exclusion, homelessness also covers a range of other situations, such as people staying with friends or family, or living in temporary, inadequate or insecure accommodation.

The outcome of the European Consensus Conference on Homelessness is a set of policy recommendations to the decision-makers in order to reach a co-ordinated strategy for tackling homelessness at the EU level. The final report was drafted by an independent European Jury chaired by Belgian Senator Frank Vandenbroucke,

Six key recommendations from the Jury of the European Consensus Conference are:

1. Homelessness should cover rooflessness, houselessness, insecure housing and inadequate housing:

Jury member Ruth Becker explains that the Jury recommends that all EU Member States use the ETHOS typology A conceptual framework for understanding homelessness which identifies four main categories of homeless living situation: rooflessness, houselessness, insecure housing and inadequate housing. See the executive summary for more information. as a shared definition of homelessness. She says: “It is clear to the Jury that homelessness is much broader and more complex than the problem of people sleeping rough. If we want to make progress on homelessness in the EU, policy makers need a common language and frame of reference that covers the diversity of homeless living situations.”

2. Ending —instead of managing- homelessness should be the goal:

Homelessness has to be considered as a violation of fundamental human rights. “Ending homelessness is clearly an ambitious goal (there will always be a potential flow of people into situations of homelessness), but we need to move away from policy approaches that focus on ‘managing’ homelessness towards progressively reducing, and ultimately ending it. That’s why the Jury believes that we need an overarching EU strategy that can support and guide the development of integrated homelessness strategies in the Member States”, says Frank Vandenbroucke, Chair of the Jury.

3. EU Member States are advised to develop ‘housing-led’ solutions to homelessness:

Mary Daly, a member of the Jury, reports that “the importance of housing in solving homelessness came out very clearly from the consensus conference process. The Jury concluded that ending homelessness requires what we call ‘housing-led’ approaches. This means promoting access to permanent housing, preventing homelessness from happening and providing floating support to people who need it in their homes.”

4. Nobody in the European Union should face destitution, regardless of legal or administrative status:

Free movement and migration policies should play an important role in preventing this situation. This requires an integrated approach, with an important role played by internal free movement and migration policies.

5. Homeless people should be empowered as far as possible to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives:

This would involve training the social workers and other specialised services to create opportunities for homeless people.

6. There is a need for an ambitious EU homelessness strategy to frame the development of national/regional strategies in Member States:

The strategy consists of: a common framework definition of homelessness (ETHOS), measuring, monitoring and reporting on progress towards ending homelessness, supporting the development of national/regional strategies, developing a strong research agenda, encouraging social innovation, promoting quality services, ongoing mutual learning and transnational exchange, funding and mainstreaming homelessness across relevant policy domains.

This path is possible and necessary within the context of the new Europe 2020 strategy, and particularly the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion.