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World Habitat’s European End Street Homelessness Campaign partners in Croatia are the national NGO the Croatian Homeless Network. Their innovative campaign focusses on partnership working to carry out research and evidence to bring about policy and practice change in Croatia, and challenge understanding and perceptions of Homelessness in Croatian Society. One of the key network members, The Red Cross Pula have also been instrumental in gathering evidence to drive structural change of the current homelessness system to a Housing-led one.

In this guest blog Luis Vilacha Fernandez, Policy and Programme Officer (Social Inclusion) from the Red Cross EU Office, reflects on the commitment of Red Cross societies to ending homelessness by 2030, and shares the extensive work from Red Cross societies across Europe who are responding and working to prevent and end homelessness.

In January 2022, the Red Cross EU Office launched Red Cross Approach: Combatting Homelessness in Europe, a publication based on the activities and practices of National Red Cross Societies across Europe.

The publication presents our unique approach to combat homelessness. Above all, it presents the commitment of National Red Cross Societies to join forces with public authorities and other civil society partners to actively work towards ending homelessness by 2030.

National Red Cross societies in Europe believe that everyone deserves a home that is safe, secure, and affordable. Across Europe, 20 National Red Cross Societies respond to people who are experiencing homeless by providing accommodation, health services and assistance in accessing social protection and employment services as well as psychosocial and material support.

The key actions of the Red Cross Approach are:

Preventing homelessness through providing support services for people at risk

National Red Cross societies support people at risk of homelessness through addressing tenancy problems and underlying issues which may affect their housing.

In Riga, colleagues from Latvian Red Cross offer temporary accommodation to families living in houses with unsuitable living conditions, unresolved rent issues and unaffordable rent. By identifying people at risk early, Latvian colleagues provide targeted support based on people’s needs, preventing a worsening of the situation and potential eviction.

In the Paris area, French Red Cross offer transition accommodation to single mothers and their children living in unsuitable accommodation or at risk of becoming rough sleepers during winter, while providing dedicated support for people to secure both employment and long-term accommodation before they leave the centre.

Providing immediate assistance to people who find themselves homeless

National Red Cross societies respond to the needs of people who are homeless without discrimination, ensuring their access to accommodation, social protection, psychosocial and material support.

In Copenhagen, Danish Red Cross provides healthcare, dental care, midwifery, and physiotherapy to migrants without a valid residence permit as normal check-ups as accessing a general practitioner is not an option.

Through their outreach work, colleagues from the Spanish Red Cross in the Basque Country made a shift in their approach to housing. In 2020, they started offering long-term solutions for people that were housed during the beginning of the pandemic. The goal was simple: No one should go back to the streets.

Empowering and supporting people to exit homelessness

National Red Cross societies are in direct contact with people experiencing homelessness to create the right support to help them access housing. They do this by developing individual support plans which address holistically the needs of the individual.

The Italian Red Cross in Benevento, with support of EU funds, is a housing-first project for people experiencing homelessness to support their pathway towards social integration. Similar to the example from Spanish Red Cross, mobile teams help identify potential beneficiaries of the programme that will be later supported by a multidisciplinary team composed of social, legal, health and psychological professionals.

Empowering people through a holistic approach is the main goal of colleagues from Luxembourg Red Cross. They flipped their housing approach to respond to the housing and living needs of vulnerable people and families with an innovative and collaborative approach that provides security for owners and social support for tenants during the first year of the lease.

Homelessness continues to be a growing social crisis across the EU, an issue which has only been further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. The Lisbon Declaration and the launch of the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness (EPOCH) confirmed the EU and Member States’ commitment to combatting homelessness through policies and actions that place access to affordable and sustainable housing at the centre of the equation.

At the Red Cross we believe that housing is a fundamental right. A good quality and affordable home should be provided to people who need it, without barriers and obstacles. The Red Cross is committed and will continue to support, provide care, and bring dignity when is needed.

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