Developed in New York in early 1990, the model has been successful in cities in the United States, Canada and Europe, addressing the housing shortage problem for those most in need, such as people suffering with severe mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and physical disability.
In addition to visiting the entities in charge of the HF in Madrid, Lisbon and Cascais, throughout the mission, the Brazilian representatives were able to visit people who live in the homes provided by the project, talk about their life trajectory, hear their account of the years spent on the street, their relationship with drugs, with violence and in shelters, the lack of privacy to live and sleep, wake up, eat, etc. The mission is part of the project titled "Housing for the Homeless - A Human Right,” within the EU - Brazil Sector Dialogues.
Read the complete interview below.
Sector Dialogues - Which projects targeted at homeless people did you visit in Madrid (Spain) and in Lisbon and Cascais (Portugal)?
Carlos Ricardo Júnior and Francisco Nascimento - The mission visited different places in Spain and Portugal where Housing First (HF) has been implemented . These are NGOs working specifically in the implementation of HF projects in their respective countries and in partnership with other European Union countries. In Madrid, we visited the NGO called "HOGAR SÍ", which has been working with HF since 2014 and is now present in 17 Spanish cities with 300 houses in the project. In Lisbon, we visited one of the precursors of the HF model in Europe, the Association for Study and Psychosocial Integration (AEIPS), which, in partnership with the University Institute (ISPA),which has been assisting about 50 homeless people with mental health issues since 2009 through the "Casas Primeiro"(Houses First) project. From 2013 on, the Crescer Association has adopted the model and started working on the "É Uma Casa" (It's a House) project, benefiting about 30 people who were homeless. Today, AEIPS advises and trains public administrators and other entities in several EU countries. In Portugal, we also visited the initiative developed by the Municipality of Cascais, which since 2012 has had a project for 17 people, funded with resources from the municipality in partnership with the Gaivotas da Torre Association.
DS - Could you highlight (both positive or negative) points of each of these projects that most called your attention and explain why?
CRJ and FN - As positive points, we can highlight first and foremost the gain in people's quality of life brought by the direct access to well-structured housing in different locations and well-integrated into the communities. There are also advantages for the public administration as costs are much lower when compared to the current model. The initiative of the Municipality of Cascais is a good example of a strong partnership between the local government and an NGO, in this case, the Gaivotas da Torre Association. We were able to see successful cases of individuals considered chronic, that is, who had been living on the streets for more than 10 years, were more than 50 years of age, had a history of mental health issues and abuse of psychoactive substances. Soon after they get housing, people improve their self-esteem, decrease the use of emergency health and public safety services, improve their diets and sleeping patterns, and build relationships with the neighbourhood and the community. We also notice a distinctive characteristic in HF projects: they begin with a small scope (15 to 20 people) and over time, they expand as they gain experience, improve methodologies, and strengthen interpersonal relationships and relationships with entities and people from the communities. As difficulties, we point out the absence of HF projects funded with the resources and active involvement of public administrations and the non-establishment of HF as a public policy in EU countries.
DS - Do you believe implementing a Housing First style programme would be feasible in Brazil? Is there any current initiative in this direction? If so, where?
CRJ and FN - Not only do we believe in the feasibility of the HF programme, but also that there is a need to implement it, as international studies show that it is cheaper, more efficient and more humane than the multi-step model in force in Brazil. From a human rights perspective, it is the answer to the phenomenon of homelessness, by enabling people to effectively leave the streets and guaranteeing their civil rights.
DS - What are the next steps of the project under the Dialogues?
CRJ and FN - The publication of a report telling homeless people's experiences of access to housing in Brazil and Europe, and the holding, in November 2019, of the International Seminar on Housing for the Homeless, in Brasilia.
DS - How important is the support of the Sector Dialogues for this theme? Besides the technical mission, what other activities are supported within this project?
CRJ and FN - It was through the Sector Dialogues that we learned about the HF model during our visit to share experiences in London and Paris in 2013. In 2016 there was the presentation of the HF proposal in the Intersectoral Committee for Monitoring and Evaluation of the National Policy for the Homeless - CIAMP - "Homelessness and the prioritization of the model as a new methodology for Brazilian policies to assist homeless people". After publicising it throughout Brazil through seminars, lectures, public hearings, etc., the time has come to show how to implement and how to build models that can be presented to states and municipalities that want to implement housing projects for homeless people using the HF methodology. Now once again the Dialogues were important for giving us the opportunity to return to Europe. This time, in a specific mission to contact entities specialised in the implementation of HF and public administrators that work with this theme. HF has proven to be a model of innovation and economy for the public administration.
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