In the common home?

After the first conference in Brussels

“Only on a European scale can we hope to find efficient ways to counter a phenomenon which is becoming ever more complex, fragmented and globalised”. With these words Paolo Pezzana, president of the Italian Federation of the bodies for the homeless, conclude the first “Consensus conference” on the homeless people held in Brussels December 9 to 10. What is your opinion at the end of the meeting?“The event was certainly precious and innovative. It is auspicious for the achievement, in a not too distant future, of common European guidelines to counter homelessness. The final consensus, which the jury is currently debating, will represent a joint commitment. In my opinion, although I share many of the perplexities expressed by the colleagues during the conference regarding European governments’ intention to acknowledge everyone’s right to have appropriate housing, I believe that this conference represents an important milestone for our lobbying and advocacy activity for the weaker brackets. We may want to refer to it as a moment when all stakeholders shared their views and assumed their mutual responsibilities, acknowledging each other’s presence. It’s a point of departure, not of arrival”.What’s Europe’s sensitivity vis a vis the homeless? “European institutions’ interest is significant. The fight against homelessness has been one of the EU’s social priorities in all political programming from 2000 to 2010. It has also been included in the EU2020 strategy for the next decade. Parliament took strategic stands through written declarations and reports. The problem is that Europe isn’t directly responsible to this regard. However, over the past years EU Member States failed to address the issue constructively. It is to be hoped that with the social clause (art.9) of the new Treaty of Lisbon, with the new and broader prerogatives recognized to Parliament and with an increasingly decisive action by the Court of Justice it will be possible to achieve stronger ‘European participation in the fight against homeless and poverty by 2020”.Will it be possible for EU Member States to have a common legislative framework to deal with this question? “It is indispensable. However, at least from the legislative angle, it’s currently institutionally impossible. Through an efficient coordination marked by guidelines, indicators, with a serious common supervision of the interested Countries it will be possible to achieve results. Provided that the mistakes of the past decade are not repeated and that investment is carried out not only in words but also with political will in this framework”.How is the typology of the homeless changing? “We are faced with manifold profiles and situations, which is not negative if the centrality of individual care doesn’t prevail. There is an increasing array of services for the homeless, for those who are nearing a state of poverty and for those with extremely poor living conditions (young people who are out of the job market, lone elderly people, large families without a steady income, divorced fathers, single mothers with children, non-protected minorities, etc.) The ongoing economic crisis doesn’t help, and although it did not further increase the number of homeless people, it did trigger a dynamics of precariousness and social selection which is bound to increase the number of homeless people in the coming years. Considering that social policies, which represent the way out of poverty, instead of being boosted undergo drastic cuts, by Italy’s government-in-office and in other European States, a gloomy future lies ahead of us. Indeed, it was well-known from the start that this would be the final result of economic liberalism…”.

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