There are approximately 3 million homeless persons in Europe, who are supported by social welfare systems but in many cases are off their radar or are inadequately protected. It is estimated that 410,000 people sleeping every night in the streets of European cities.
Between 2008 and 2014, the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU27 increased from 116 million to 121 million. One of the goals of Europe 2020 strategy is to reduce poverty by lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty and social exclusion.
Europe is one of the wealthiest and most advanced regions in the world, yet social inequalities persist on crucial domains such as: health, income inequalities, housing, security and perceived quality of life. All these surveys and studies recommend attention to all aspects of well-being, associated with effective social and political action.
HOME_EU probes to contribute towards the advancement of a European theory of justice through an extreme example of social inequality: long-term homelessness.
Long-term homelessness is considered the situation where a person lives in the street for more than 1 year. This is a deprivation of basic capabilities, wealth and well-being, and there is a social and political responsibility on this, due to a failure in facilitating living opportunities for all the citizens with equality.
Several data reveal that homelessness has increased in Europe with the recent and persistent economic crisis. In 15 out of 21 European countries homelessness has increased in the last 5 years, with an increasing number of women, youth, families and migrants experiencing homelessness.
ACTION IS NEEDED
Advocacy and political action is needed. More than ten European countries have developed national homelessness strategies, and other strategies are in progress. The European Commission has stepped up efforts by publishing policy guidance to support Member States in their actions to confront homelessness. Programs targeting homeless people are now eligible under the new European Structural and Investment Funds, and the European Parliament has twice called for an EU homelessness strategy (in 2011 and 2014), and the EU Committee of the Regions reiterated this call in 2014.
National strategies on homelessness in EU member states
In green: States with a National strategy implemented
– Ireland (2008), Spain (2015), Italy (2015), Norway (2005), Finland (2008), Denmark (2009) Sweden (2007), Netherlands (2006), Luxembourg (2013), France (2007), United Kingdom (2002), Portugal (2009). Germany* (only in North-Rhine Westphalia). Belgium* only in Flanders region.
In yellow: Drafted but not implemented
– Hungary, Poland, Greece.
In red: States with no specific integrated strategy
– Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Malta.
The EU capacity to reverse inequalities and to promote fairness is not complete if extreme situations as long-term homelessness persist.
But homelessness is a persistent social emergency in Europe. The daily reality of thousands of persons living rough in our cities is the raw face of inequality, and more data is needed to join efforts and tackle this phenomenon.
Long-term homeless is an unequal and unfair situation in a cycle of extreme poverty. Long-term homelessness blocks people’s capabilities because it undermines longevity, health, mental health, and well-being. Life expectancy among homeless persons is as much as 30 years shorter than the average.