Homelessness is on the increase in the EU, with rises recorded in most member states, as the economic crisis and austerity policies hurt the most vulnerable.
Immigrants, women, families and young people are making up a growing proportion of the homeless, while cuts in welfare, housing, health, probation services, education and training are aggravating the problem, according to a report by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless.
The report – On the Way Home? – FEANTSA Monitoring Report on Homelessness and Homeless Policies in Europe – states:
‘For Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the UK, the crisis was identified as a key driver of increased homelessness in the past 5 years. Several of the countries most affected by the crisis, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain have experienced dramatic increases in homelessness. [Homeless] Service providers in Portugal and Spain estimate increases of 25-30% in the demand for homeless services since the onset of the crisis. In Greece, despite a lack of reliable statistical data, there are clear indications of a large and rapid increase in homelessness. Service providers estimate that Greece’s homeless population also rose by 25% between 2009 and 2011 and reached 20,000….
‘These increases in homelessness reflect increased unemployment and loss of income which mean more people have difficulty meeting housing costs. At the same time, austerity budget cuts are diminishing capacity to respond to homelessness. For example, 61 of the 85 staff at the City of Athens Homeless Foundation were laid off in November 2010.
‘A new shelter, begun in 2009 and intended to relieve congestion in the two existing hostels, has been unable to open because of the lack of staff. Housing benefit was suspended in 2010, partly due to the reduced inflow of social contributions which had funded the scheme. Social housing in the form of the Greek Workers’ Housing Organisation has been abolished. Similar issues are observed in Spain and Portugal.’
Even in Germany, following years of a downward trend, homelessness is on the rise. This is because of a shortage of affordable housing, which is compounded by cuts in social housing funding, while poverty as a result of long- term unemployment and low-wage work are also driving up Germany’s homelessness, as are inadequate social security for unemployed people, inadequate housing support for young people and a reduction in employment promotion measures. NGO homeless service providers estimate that the number of homeless people increased by 10% from 2008 to 2010.
Previous estimates by Red de Apoyo a la Integración Sociolaboral (RAIS) put the number of homeless in the EU at 3 million.