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Catching up with HOME_EU: Championing ‘Housing First’ as a solution to homelessness and other social intervention challenges

In the July 2020 issue of Research*eu, we featured in the Society section an article on HOME_EU, a project that had set itself the mission of tackling homelessness with an innovative ‘housing first’ model that emphasises integrated social intervention and support. We catch up with HOME_EU’s coordinator, José Ornelas, to find out more about the project’s legacy since its formal end in September 2019.

Society

There are approximately 700 000 homeless individuals across Europe and since the onset of the pandemic, there’s a good chance that this number has drastically increased. The HOME_EU (Homelessness as unfairness) project, that conducted research on attitudes, knowledge and practices towards homelessness across the EU has become a major academic champion of the concept of ‘Housing First’ (HF), the provision of affordable, permanent housing as quickly as possible for people who find themselves homeless.

The rise and rise of APPsyCI

A major result of the project was the creation of the Applied Psychology Research Centre Capabilities and Inclusion (APPsyCI) in Portugal, where the project was coordinated and where Ornelas is still based. “The centre brings together 21 full-time staff, 16 doctoral students and 17 collaborators organised to contribute solutions to concrete societal and complex problems through partnerships and collaborations amongst the public, private and non-profit sectors,” Ornelas explains. “We’re organised into specific research clusters, which includes fields as diverse as migration, mental health and community integration, psychological well-being, empowerment studies on civic engagement and identity-based violence prevention.” One current project of note that Ornelas cites is called DOMUS-ADEPTA, an in-depth case study on the effectiveness of social service programmes and systems to foster the social and community integration of people in Portugal who have experienced homelessness.

Housing First for other social interventions

Ornelas previously told us that the HF model could also be used for other social interventions. Since we last spoke, he and his colleagues have instigated a new project that applies HF to the equally serious social problem of domestic violence. “Our preliminary results already emphasise that housing is definitely a priority for women survivors (of domestic abuse) and their families,” Ornelas says. Since the end of the HOME_EU project, priority has also been given to homeless women and transgender people with regards to the upscaling of Portuguese HF programmes, with both groups being particularly hit hard by the pandemic.

HOME_EU’s proud legacy

Overall, Ornelas is extremely positive about his experiences as coordinator of the HOME_EU project. “The multi-method nature of the project provided a perspective on several approaches being implemented in different countries, providing us with valuable common perspectives despite local variations,” Ornelas outlines. “We really saw that regardless of wherever a homeless person was located, housing is without a doubt the obvious response. We consider this to be a major takeaway for future research and providing concrete solutions for vulnerable people facing life’s major challenges.”

Keywords

HOME_EU, homelessness, domestic violence, Housing First, APPsyCI