The slogan “stay home”, intended to stop the pandemic, sounds really absurd for the 700,000 people living on the streets in the European Union.
In Brussels, they have launched a project consisting of equipping the hotels that have been left without clients to welcome the homeless.
The idea of the “Hotel Solidario” arose during the first confinement and has been maintained during the second wave, given its success in terms of social inclusion.
“There are people with addiction problems who have been able to take a break and some have even started treatment. There are homeless people who just need a little help to find a house because they have almost all the documentation but they cannot finish the administrative procedures” , explains Esther Jakobert, director of the NGO The small island.
In total, nine hotels have given up the management of their business in exchange for financial compensation. But the authorities supporting the project are aware that it is a temporary solution that will not solve a structural problem that will most likely be aggravated by the recession.
“Many people are being thrown into considerable poverty, and some are homeless because they have lost their income,” says François Bertrand, director of Bruss’Help. “The great long-term challenge, once the Covid crisis ends, is to find permanent solutions for all people in need, and that requires a significant mobilization of apartments and small studios.”
Study on access to housing
A recent study on access to housing in the European Union concludes that more than 50 million Europeans suffer to cover housing costs.
It describes two structural problems: rising prices in urban areas and the lack of affordable and social housing.
And as for the measures to face the pandemic, the following stand out: the bans on evictions, the easing in the payment of mortgages and the freezing of rents.
One of the researchers who worked on the study explains that “many Member States face similar problems such as the lack of affordable housing”, and that “others share problems in terms of access to credit for first time home buyers”. For Kai Schulze, professor at the German University Technische Darmstadt, what the EU “can and must do is share experiences and cooperate”.
Other cities such as Barcelona or Lyon have launched similar projects.
And the European Parliament is working on an initiative called “Access to decent and affordable housing for all” that will be examined in December.