First Step: A Roof Over Your Head, Second: Everything Else

First Step: A Roof Over Your Head, Second: Everything Else

Housing First provides perpetual leases for participants

Housing First is getting homeless people off the streets by putting a roof over their heads as a first step – a simple solution for a complex problem?

The concept is already proving to be effective against homelessness in several European countries, with Finland serving as a role model. For the intricate issue of homelessness in the EU, Housing First could be a place to start with. Nevertheless, the most important factor for Housing First is to provide affordable housing – a challenge in bigger cities of Europe. “There is not enough capacity “, says Svenja Köstler from Housing First in Stuttgart.

Thereby, looking at effective ways to make housing accessible, is especially relevant with the plan in mind that the EU has set to end homelessness by 2030. The background of that goal is a platform founded by the European Union in June 2021, established on the initiative of Portugal’s socialist government. In the course of creating the platform, a working group was put together to use the resources from the EU Commission and the Council of Europe to help with programs that promote social inclusion.

That was already two years ago. What has happened since then? Not much, according to an interview by Euronews with Ruth Owen, Deputy Director of the European Federation of National Organizations FEANTSA, concrete results of this platform are still pending. The most visible progress so far has been in countries that have adopted the Housing First strategy.

Infografic Principles of Housing First

Infografic of Elena Nieberle on Principles of Housing First based on Housing First Fonds, Design via

Germany is one of the countries which is in its beginning steps of trying to implement the concept in some major cities. While Köstler feels that the offer is well received, the difficulty lies in the hunt for the very contested apartments. And behind these apartments are landlords who want to rent them out reliably. “Often there is a lack of willingness to rent to people who have SCHUFA records (negative credit rankings) or have already been incarcerated “, claims Köstler.

At present, Stuttgart has already stopped accepting new residents, and all available apartments are occupied. “We in Stuttgart see ourselves as a supplement to the existing assistance system, we are not the solution that fits everyone “, said Köstler. Currently, 14 households are accommodated in housing city area. That is still far from solving the nationwide problem of homelessness with Housing First, but an important number of households where the concept works well. 

This can sometimes be seen in the psychological effects of a permanent residence. Because when a permanent home is secured, a certain calm and normality can set in, “in theory, this is called ontological security”, says psychologist Dagmara Lutoslawska. She works in psychological counseling at the Housing First office in Berlin. In practice, Lutoslawska states, „the feeling of insecurity remains “, due to previous experiences. Her offer of psychological counseling is voluntary.

However, if those affected then do decide to have a get-to-know-you conversation, “It’s especially enriching when they then tell someone for the first time about things they’ve experienced. That’s enriching for both sides “, says Lutoslawska. So, the personal level is crucial for Housing First – a concept that counteracts the eternal revolving door effect, whereby those affected end up back on the street.

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