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Patrick Duce, Programme Lead for the European End Street Homelessness Campaign, reflects on its impact throughout 2019 and how its approach has helped organisations across Europe respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we work – right now – to focus on ensuring that people without a home are given spaces to self-isolate from the COVID-19 virus, it’s incredibly impressive to witness how communities and voluntary groups all over Europe have come together to help those most in need.

What gives me hope is to see how the work of our European End Street Homelessness Campaign partners has helped prepare local partnerships for the community responses we now see. Even as we all go through a period of lockdown, committed members of the public have been stitching life-saving PPE for frontline workers, donating cash to frontline organisations, and co-ordinating food deliveries to people in temporary accommodation – or in some cases to those still out on the streets.

In many parts of Europe, people sleeping outside have been given temporary accommodation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst in others, outreach and support teams are working to protect people who are still on the streets. In all cases, we should all be proud of the community networks that have come together to save countless lives. The partnerships formed through our campaign between civil society, homelessness organisations and local councils have helped pave the way for these responses.

It can feel strange to look back to last year, to a time before the world was so dominated by the impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Nevertheless, our latest report, Our Impact 2019, highlights the work of European End Street Homelessness Campaign partners throughout last year, as diverse communities of local volunteers, people with lived experience, professionals and local authorities, all worked together to make significant changes at a local level.

Our report shows this work had a profound impact, most notably 428 people moving into permanent accommodation, including 137 Housing First units. We don’t record temporary outcomes such as night shelters or temporary spaces because our vision at World Habitat is a world where everyone has a safe and secure home in a successful community. Consequently, we’re focused on more lasting outcomes.

We believe that to help people find and keep sustainable accommodation, it is crucial that we understand who is sleeping on the streets, and even more importantly, why. Across Europe in 2019 our partners engaged 755 volunteers to record valuable data by carrying out Connections Weeks’ surveys with people experiencing street homelessness.

We’ve centred the 2019 Impact Report on several key case studies from across the network – as well as giving a platform to the voices of people from within our communities. These are the people who are the most passionate, the most inspired to act, and who have dedicated their own time and energy towards ending street homelessness. You can learn about the transformational work that has been taking place in Torbay, as they implemented their first ever Housing First programme in the region. We also highlight the work taking place in Bratislava and Barcelona, two cities with very different public attitudes towards street homelessness – yet our campaign continues to provide them with a space to learn and share from each other as professionals with a common aim.

Since 2016, our European End Street Homelessness Campaign has – at its heart – worked to the principle of involving whole communities in finding solutions to local housing problems. Never before has this been so relevant as it is now with the current pandemic – and we are delighted to see that the partnerships developed through this campaign have had the agility and experience to adapt to the challenges we are facing today. While the operating environment may look and feel very different in 2020, World Habitat still believes that when communities come together, we all have the ability to make a meaningful difference.

We hope you enjoy reading Our Impact 2019, which you can download here, and you can sign up for our campaign newsletter to receive updates from all across the campaign. We’ve got a lot of vital activity happening this year, and we’d love you to be part of it.

Image: Juan Lemus

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