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Opinion: Homes, not spikes, are the answer to homelessness

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Opinion: Homes, not spikes, are the answer to homelessness


Published by Anonymous for in Housing and also in Communities

Opinion: Homes, not spikes, are the answer to homelessness Opinion: Homes, not spikes, are the answer to homelessness

By Freek Spinnewijn, director, European Federation of National Organisations Working With the Homeless (FEANTSA)

These past few weeks, conventional and social media have been alive with reactions to the issue of metal spikes and other types of architecture used to chase homeless people away from certain areas. FEANTSA welcomes the protests against these practices and encourages using this energy to promote sustainable solutions to homelessness.

The media, citizen and mayoral protests sparked across Europe and the world against ‘defensive architecture’ and particularly the ‘anti-homeless spikes’ in front of a London apartment building have revealed a heartening understanding of the need for a more humane approach to homelessness.

People need homes, not to be chased out of cities and out of sight.

Unfortunately, this type of stigmatising, punitive approach to homelessness is not uncommon and is even increasing in Europe, as explored by FEANTSA’s housing rights watch in the 2013 study ‘Mean Streets: A Report on the Criminalisation of Homelessness in Europe’.

We feel that the recent attention given to the issue and the resulting removal of the spikes in some places is very encouraging and that it shows that the time is ripe to go a step further and find real, sustainable solutions to homelessness.

‘Managing’ homelessness is not enough. Not only should there be no spikes to shoo away rough sleepers, no one should be forced to sleep rough. More effort is needed to put an end to homelessness, using a rights-based approach to the issue and housing-led solutions.

It also needs to be dealt with in a strategic way, not with ad hoc, penalising approaches that only displace the problem and do not solve it in a humane manner.

In its recently-published social investment package (SIP), the European Commission calls on European member states to “confront homelessness through comprehensive strategies based on prevention, housing-led approaches and reviewing regulations and practices on eviction”. This call should be followed up on.

Homelessness is a shocking manifestation of poverty. While it might seem to be an intractable challenge, it is possible to end homelessness. There is increasing consensus amongst stakeholders that ‘housing-led’ approaches to tackling homelessness are particularly effective.

Housing-led approaches are the most developed and best-understood social innovation on homelessness. They start from the principle of housing as a basic human right, providing housing from the outset and the social and mental-health support the person needs as and when required.

All approaches to addressing and ending homelessness must be grounded in policies that respect human rights.

Measures, like the spikes, other anti-homeless street furniture and laws that criminalise people who are forced to sleep or spend time in public spaces often violate human rights, and certainly do not resolve the issue.

Policies that put people first, and crucially, put people in homes, respect human rights and will make headway to solving homelessness.

As well as non-stigmatising, personal approaches to homelessness, Europe and the world need more affordable housing that is accessible for homeless people, who have the right to a decent place to live as much as the next person. This can be achieved using specific homelessness strategies, as called for in the SIP.

FEANTSA thus encourages the development of integrated, rights-based, housing-led strategies to tackle homelessness, as opposed to spikes. The European Union also has its role to play in this.


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