Potential Locations for Homeless Programs in Europe


Problem: European cities continue to see a number of individuals forced into “Rough Sleeping”.  Rough Sleeping is defined as sleeping on the street as opposed to some type of shelter.

Question: What city’s and NGO’s in Europe might combine to help create a successful homeless program in Europe?  More specifically:

  1. Are there any good or bad examples of ending street homelessness in Europe? What we could learn from them?
  2. Are there any European cities where this campaign must concentrate, due to reasons such as; problem is very severe, leadership is very keen, can get European visibility, a very active NGO is there etc.
  3. Are there any European NGOs, who must be approached for a partnership? National, local and European NGOs.
  4. Are there any donors, who are interested in this topic?

Part I: Examples of programs focused on ending street homelessness in Europe.  

Outstanding research by the European Observatory on Homelessness points to several programs using the Housing First model.  The study is interesting as it demonstrates both strengths and weaknesses of each case study city.  In one instance (Budapest) the failure of long term funding displays how Housing First can fail if the main components of the methodology are not followed.   Overall, many of the program participants in these case studies were homeless for a long time and many had drug and alcohol problems.  The report did note that some of the most chaotic homeless applicants were not housed in these programs.  That needs to be figured in when looking at overall results.[1] Brief summary of case studies below:

  1. Amsterdam- Name:Discuss Housing First-Program founded in 2006 by non-profit HVO Querido
  • Housing Used:  Program developers worked with a service provider who held a contract with five social housing agencies for the units of housing.
  • Support: The support team consisted of 19 workers with backgrounds ranging from social workers, anthropologists, a nurse, a sports teacher and a former homeless person to act as a peer.  The ratio of service was 1 provider to 6-8 participants with 8-10 hours of help per resident spent.
  • Results: 97.2% of all participants were still housed after 1 year with 2.8% having a negative outcome. Perhaps most importantly the majority of participants felt their situations as far as quality of life improved.  Loneliness is still a problem and that seems to be an issue with many housing programs for homeless.
  1. BudapestName: Pilisi Forest Project funded in 2007 ended in 2008 by the Public Foundation for the Homeless
  • Housing Used: The program in Budapest was not well funded with only €800 per person a year available.  In Hungary a small unit costs around €140 a month plus utilities.  Limited access to housing units was a major problem in the program. Renting from the market was the only choice.
  • Support: Underfunded is the best way to describe the program.  The ratio for service was 1:24 with service providers from existing agencies helping. The providers were often volunteers using free time to help.
  • Results: 50% of participants were still housed at the end of the study but not with the program.  The program itself ended in Budapest.  The program departed from the core points of Housing First which is long term housing security.
  1. CopenhagenProgram founded in 2010 by Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Copenhagen
  • Housing Used: Copenhagen as a city assigns 1/3 of its housing units to high priority groups. In this particular program 3/5 of participants were housed in congregate housing.  Scattered site units were also used.  Of special note, there were times when the waitlist for scattered sites was long while empty spaces were open in the in the congregate units.  This points to the willingness of many homeless to wait for a individual unit rather than living in a congregate setting.
  • Support: Copenhagen followed the Pathway to Housing model employing a team of medical professionals, psychiatrist and addiction specialist.
  • Results:  The housing retention rate at the end of the study was 93.8%.   4 persons or 6.3% had a negative outcome of either losing housing, ending up in jail or homelessness.  Many participants reported problems with alcohol and drug abuse did not change.  In most situations, at least a small number did report better situations than before.  However, it is pointed out in the study that drug addiction and alcohol abuse is a long term problem and stable housing is only a first step in a long road.
  1. GlasgowTurning Point Scotland Housing First founded in 2010 by NGO Turning Point Scotland
  • Housing Used: Scotland has a statutory homeless system. That means program participants receive an unlimited rental contract with the housing associations in Scotland.
  • Support: The workforce supporting the clients consisted of coordinators, co-coordinators and four peer support workers.  The caseloads were small 1:3 with additional support being sought when needed.
  • Results: 92.9% were still housed at the end of the study with 1 person or 7.1% of the population having a negative outcome.  Many of the participants were heavy drug users mainly heroin.  This makes the project that more impressive.  Improvements in mental health were reported and mixed but positive results in substance abuse were reported.  Many had decreased the use of hard drugs but cannabis and alcohol were still being abused. Finances were still a problem but many were in better situations thanks to the stable housing.  I would recommend going to page 66 for more information on results for Glasgow.
  1. Lisbon– Casas Primeiro founded in 2009 by NGO AEIPS
  • Housing Used: Social Housing stock in Portugal is not extensive. Lisbon program designers followed the Pathways to Housing Model from NY and worked with the private rental market.
  • Support: The support team had 6 employees with a ratio of 1:11.  Funding issues caused the program participants and supporting staff to be reduced.
  • Result: The retention rate was 79.4% after three years and very severe budget cuts.  Compared to other programs the amount of drug users at the start was not as high.  Around half of the 21 who reported using drugs at the start said they had stopped. The program secured some sort of stable income for all participants except 1 person.

Overall lessons learned:

  • Dedication to Housing First Philosophy: In all of the examples, homeless individuals were housed regardless of drug and alcohol issues.  Some were turned away when their situation was deemed overly chaotic.
  • Long term funding is important:  The program in Hungary saw a large failure rate because long term funding was not available. Lisbon also saw a lower retention rate but that was because of a cut in funding.
  • Social Support:  Rough sleepers need different types of support and a successful program will take this into account.  Program support can encompass counseling, addiction support, job skills, training, medical help and other supports as needed.
  • Skilled Administrators: A programs overall success is often dependent on proper implementation and project management.   Professionals with experience in policy and process can help ensure a program begins successfully.

Part II: Potential Locations for Program

The European Observatory on Homelessness published a press release in December of 2014.  It stated a sharp rise in homelessness in many European member states.  In my research, it is clear many EU member countries do not have reliable data on homelessness.  The press release stated the same thing.  With that said, homeless numbers increased in Denmark by 16%, France by 50%, Germany by 21% the Netherlands by 17% Sweden by 29% and the city of Brno, Czech Republic by 44%.  The press released says homeless youth is a large sub-group where more energy needs to be spent.

With that said, it is clear real need exists in many Eastern European countries that lack strong data.  Hungary and the Czech Republic are both examples.  Rough sleepers exist throughout both countries including in major cities like Budapest and Brno.  In 2014 more people died of exposure in Eastern European cities because of cold than other parts of Europe. [2]

Potential Cities:

Budapest:  Budapest has both a need and a history of implementing successful program on a small scale.  Budapest could be a good test site because of the combination of a soft infrastructure in place for helping homeless and relatively cheaper rents.  There would be an opportunity to help more households because the rents would not cost as much as other European cities.

Prague or Brno: The post-Communist conversion in the Czech Republic has strongly altered the Czech housing market, especially in Prague and primarily due to the privatization and restitution processes.   In the Czech Republic the drop in available affordable housing is due to the specific processes of fiscal transformation.   Social protection in the Czech Republic has also become weaker since the liberalization of rents.  Because of these factors, homelessness is a problem in the Czech Republic especially the bigger cities of Prague and Brno. While the systems in place to help homeless or not as advanced as other western countries, there are non-profits and academics in place that could help a program be successful.

Helsinki: On first pass, Helsinki may not seem like a good place to locate a program.  There is a strong commitment to serving homeless and the number is decreasing.  However; this strong commitment could be a good reason to fund a program.  Many homeless were housed but left out were the long-term homeless who had difficult social and health problems and housing needs with significant amount of services, support and/or monitoring. Since 2007 the latest two governments have had the challenge of decreasing especially long-term homelessness in their agenda. The first Finnish National Programme to Reduce Long-Term Homelessness succeeded in halving the long-term homelessness by 2011 and the newest government programme “An open, fair and confident Finland” for years 2011-2015 suggests continuation for the Long-Term Homelessness Reduction Programme, aiming to end long-term homelessness in Finland by 2015.  The strong committment and structure in place to end homelessness is a good reason to commitmit in Findland.  The country is also a leader in the EU for implmenting Housing First.

Hamburg:  Hamburg presents another interesting possiblity for implementing a program.  Germany is known for a strong data system and commitment to social welfare.  Still, the homeless population in Germany has grown sharply in recent years.  An influx of Eastern Europeans to Germany increased the need for affordable housing in growth cities like Hamburg.

In 2011, the number of Bulgarians in Germany grew by more than 22,000, while that of Romanians went up by 36,000. Thousands of the new immigrants are university graduates, expert workers or students, but they also include day employees and panhandlers. The poorest end up in homeless accommodations, either because they have no cash or misuse the emergency shelters as free hotels.

The German Association of Cities complains that municipalities are left to deal with the consequences of “poverty migration” from Eastern Europe, and that cities don’t have enough resources to provide housing and medical care to all the new arrivals. The strain in Hamburg is evident.  There are a number of rough sleepers found in Hamburg.  The demand for low income or social housing units cannot keep up with the number of people needing low cost housing.

Lisbon: A study showed that Lisbon’s number of homeless in the Portuguese context is massive comprising almost half (48%) of the identified homelessness cases in Portugal.[3] Because such a high percentage of homeless live in Lisbon, it presents a strong opportunity to make a large difference in the country’s overall homeless rate.  Lisbon takes homelessness seriously as evidenced by the 2009 report Plano da Cidade para a Pessoa Sem-Abrigo – Lisboa (PCPSAL) (“Lisbon’s City Plan for the Homeless Person”.  Lisbon, as mentioned earlier, operated a successful housing first demonstration in the face of major budget cuts.

Part III: Potential Partnering NGO’s:

Below is a list with links of various agencies and non-profits known for helping homeless or low income families.  The list includes research institutes and agencies in several countries that experienced demonstrative success in helping homeless, mentally ill or drug addicted.

Important organization in Europe

  • http://www.feantsa.org/- Feantsa is an important research agency and a valuable source of knowledge on homelessness in Europe.
  • http://homelesspeople.eu/index.htm- this appears to be another international group that could be of some use for publicity and support.  I doubt funds could be found.

Organizations helping homeless in Germany and Hamburg:

Organizations helping homeless in Czech Republic:

  • www.nadeje.cz Naděje, a charity network that has been in operation since 1990. The organization has branches throughout Prague and provides food, medical services, and onsite social workers. http://www.novyprostor.cz  Street newspaper in Prague www.charita.cz The Association of Homeless Shelters in the Czech Republic (Sdružení azylových domů v ČR – S.A.D.) www.armadaspasy.cz
  •  this is the largest non-governmental agency in the Czech Republic working on issues of drug dependency.  This group works with homeless individuals often.

Organizations helping homeless in Hungary:

  • Metropolitan Research Institute of Budapest annabalogi@gmail.com
  • GAP” Social and Cultural Foundation Temporary Home for Families 1173 Budapest, Interconnect street third Phone: +36 1 258 58 95 / +36 20 334 0281 www.resalapitvany.hu
  • Salvation Army “Light House” Home Mom Phone: +36 1 253 5437 / +36 1 257 9461 udvhadsereg.hu/szocialis-intezmenyek
  • Salvation Army “Crossroads House” Women’s Rehabilitation Institute 1171 Budapest, Lemberg street 38th Phone: +36 1 259 1095 / +36 1 253 5473 udvhadsereg.hu/szocialis-intezmenyek

Organizations helping homeless in Portugal:

  • http://www.aeips.pt/?page_id=3 this group works with mentally ill and those with drug addictions.  This organization was a key player in the Housing First program. .
  • http://www.eapn.pt/ this organization promotes social inclusion in Portugal
  • . http://www.cvidaepaz.pt/site/ This organization has direct interaction with rough sleepers in Lisbon.  They operate several programs to help homeless and low income persons.

Organizations helping homeless in Finland:

Part IV: Foundations or Potential Funding Sources:

Funding opportunities for homeless programs are not as numerous as the USA.  I should clarify, foundation funding opportunities.  Below are some potential sources of funding.  This area needs to be flushed out more.  I also believe a special report on Homeless Funding Opportunities in Europe is warranted.

European Union:

  • European Social Fund:  Although not specifically aimed at homeless, there are opportunities in each member state to find funds that could help with employment.

United Kingdom


  • The Siemens Stiftung-http://www.siemens-stiftung.org/en/ is the foundation of the Siemens Corporation. Its goal is to promote positive social change by funding opportunities that encourage social and economic engagement.
  • Deutsch Bank Foundationhttp://www.deutsche-bank-stiftung.de/ The foundation does make grants for social purpose.  Although there is no express purpose for funding homeless projects, this could still be a source.
  • Robert Bosch Foundation– There are some opportunities for funding in the realm of social programs.

Czech Republic

[1] All data comes from a report entitled (Housing First Europe Final Report by Dr. Volker Busch-Geertsema supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity.  Published in 2013. Full report available at

2] http://www.dw.de/cold-snap-takes-heavy-toll-in-eastern-europe/a-15714393

[3] Strategies to Help Homeless Peoplein Lisbon City Area-Faculdad de Ciendcias Sociase Humanas Universidade Nova de Lisboa-http://www.fcsh.unl.pt/~egeo/sites/default/files/dl/homeless.pdf

Conclusion:  Homeless in Europe is a challenging problem because of the various definitions and differences between EU member states.  As recent programming demonstrates, Housing First works in the EU regardless of the member state.   Proper implementation and program design are extremely important as Budapest showed us.  This is report is a quick look at opportunities for building and implementing a homeless program in a European city.  It would not be hard to prove that other cities are worthy of a program or that the cities mentioned in this report should be skipped over for another city.  Homeless is a ugly problem and I did not write this to say one city deserves funding more than another.  Instead, it is just a look at cities that on face value seem to be good locations for operating a homeless program.

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