Housing First Europe: Testing a Social Innovation in Tackling Homelessness in Different National and Local Contexts

In Europe, the Housing First approach to homelessness is currently tested in a number of cities and some evaluations are going on at the local level already. A number of articles and small studies have been published recently assessing tentatively the potential (and the probable limits) of the Housing First approach for implementation in European welfare contexts and underlining the need for testing and evaluating such projects in various local and national settings across Europe (Atherton and McNaughton Nicholls 1998; Busch-Geertsema 2010; Johnsen and Teixeira 2010; McNaughton Nicholls and Atherton 2011; Pleace 1998 and 2011). While different intervention methods to re-house homeless persons with complex problems have been tested and evaluated in the US (Coldwell and Bender 2007; Nelson et al. 2007), this has never been done systematically in any European country. An application to the 2010 Social Experimentation Call in the framework of the PROGRESS programme of the European Commission (DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) for an evaluation and mutual exchange project called Housing First Europe was recently selected for funding. Housing First Europe has started 1st August 2011 and is planned to last for 24 months. It will test and evaluate Housing First projects in five European cities from a European perspective, leading to greater clarity on the potentials and the limits of the approach, as well as the essential elements of Housing First projects. It will also facilitate mutual learning with additional partners in five “peer sites” cities where further Housing First projects are planned or being implemented and with a steering group including FEANTSA and HABITACT as European stakeholders, experienced researchers, representatives of national homelessness programmes and Sam Tsemberis, the founder of Pathways to Housing in New York. Main contractor of Housing First Europe is the Danish National Board of Social Services (with Birthe Povlsen as the main responsible person) and coordinator of the evaluation and exchange strands is the author of this contribution, Volker Busch-Geertsema, who is senior research fellow of GISS (Association for Innovative Social Research and Social Planning) in Bremen, Germany, and also the coordinator of the European Observatory on Homelessness. The partnership involves a wide range of stakeholders including NGOs, service providers, local authorities, universities and public authorities. The five Housing First projects (or “test sites”) to be evaluated are in the following cities: Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow and Lisbon. The five “peer sites” taking part in three of the five project meetings are in Dublin, Gent, Gothenburg, Helsinki and Vienna. The last meeting will be the final conference which will take place in June 2013, probably in Amsterdam and will be open to the public.

Publication Date: