The research concerns the present role of FBOs in matters of poverty and other forms of social exclusion (such as homelessness or undocumented persons) in cities. We define FBOs as any organisation that refers directly or indirectly to religion or religious values, and functions as a welfare provider or as a political actor. The central assumption is that FBOs tend to fill the gap left after the supposed withdrawal of the welfare state in several domains of public life, particularly in social welfare and in social protection. At first sight, this looks like a return to the charity of former times, when such associations occupied the fore of social help in many countries. But we might as well witness the beginning of a new type of welfare regime with a stronger focus on local policies and strategies and new interplays between local authorities and civil society organisations. What is the position of FBOs in combating poverty and other forms of social distress cities? How has this role changed over time and how do these activities contribute to combating social exclusion and promoting social cohesion? What are the implications for policies and the governance of European cities? From both scientific and policy perspectives, there is a great need for better empirical and comparative data on what is going on in European cites in matters of poverty and exclusion policies and, in particular, the contribution of FBOs in the reduction (or deepening) of the problems. FBOs have direct entrance to the ‘poor side’ of cities because of (1) their activities in deprived urban neighbourhoods and among excluded groups and (2) as in the case of many FBOs with a non-western background, because their members often belong to these deprived and excluded groups themselves.
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