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A European Perspective to Ending Homelessness
April 13, 2011
Today’s post was written by Suzannah Young, Communications Officer at FEANTSA (European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless). Suzannah thanks the Alliance for inviting her to write.
FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless, is an umbrella of NGOs which contribute to the fight against homelessness in Europe. It is the only major European network that focuses exclusively on homelessness in the European Union (EU).
I’m grateful for this opportunity to tell you about FEANTSA and hope it will be interesting for you too. Actually, our Director recently took part in a meeting on homelessness involving Australia, Canada, Europe and the USA and enjoyed the opportunity to share best practices. So, as part of a big sharing exercise, this post should clarify how FEANTSA tries to tackle homelessness in Europe, working with NGOs and other stakeholders in the fight against homelessness: local authorities; national governments; legal and health professionals; the EU institutions; the housing sector (public and private); transport companies; human rights organizations; academics, etc.
The NGOs we work with are largely our members – more than 100 national or regional umbrellas of homeless service providers, operating in areas including housing, health, employment and social protection, in 30 countries. We have close contact with the EU institutions (mainly the European Parliament and the European Commission,) and have consultative status at the Council of Europe and the United Nations.
One of FEANTSA’s main roles is to promote the exchange of expertise on homelessness. Another, which has developed over time as it has become the authority on homelessness in the EU, is toadvise the EU on how best to tackle homelessness, by recommending the examples of best practice it has gathered through 20-plus years of pooling expertise.
One way in which expertise is gathered is through working groups, which focus on thematic priorities. Members appointed to the working groups analyse issues like housing, housing rights, employment, health and social protection, data collection and participation. Other ways are transnational exchange initiatives – side projects which focus on specific dimensions of homelessness – for exampleHousing Rights Watch, a network of legal professionals committed to promoting and protecting the right to housing for all, and the European Network of Homeless Health Workers. FEANTSA also has aResearch Observatory, uniting academics researching homelessness in most European countries. We include the research findings in our lobbying.
FEANTSA also organises events, which permit homelessness sector professionals to work together. We have an annual theme and our discussions lead to policy statements, reports and a conference; this year, FEANTSA is focusing on Quality in Social Services from the perspective of services working with homeless people. Other events include European seminars on local homelessness issues. The seminars were an initial response to requests for information on how to tackle homelessness coming from local authorities. Plus, in 2009, FEANTSA helped launch HABITACT, a European exchange forum on local homeless strategies.
FEANTSA believes homelessness can be ended. For us, one of the key roles of EU Member States (countries) should be to aim towards this by creating national homelessness strategies. We also support the development of an EU Homelessness Strategy. In order to encourage policy makers to embrace this goal, FEANTSA launched a campaign in 2010, and created a Handbook with examples of effective approaches to ending homelessness from across Europe. Moreover, we recently supported a Written Declaration promoting an EU Homelessness Strategy, which was adopted by the European Parliament.
Our future goals include developing expertise on migration and homelessness and youth homelessness in Europe, two emerging issues. We will also be monitoring progress towards the development of an EU Homelessness Strategy, the parameters of which were recommended in the conclusions of the European Consensus Conference on Homelessness, co-organised by FEANTSA and held last December.
You can also contact me if you have any questions.
 In particular relating to situations where countries breach the revised European Social Charter on the right to housing, to the right of the family to social, legal and economic protection and to non-discrimination.