Working with European Partners

The LHF is proud to support the EU10 initiative. 

London has some excellent homelessness services and has been tackling the problem of homeless migrants since 8 new Central and Eastern European countries joined the EU in 2004 and had the right to travel to the UK and get work. In January 2014 two more EU countries – Romania and Bulgaria – gained these rights – bringing the total to 10 – the EU10. For the majority it will be a positive experience; reconnecting with friends or family, gaining useful and reasonably paid jobs to build a new life or support folk back home.  But for some there will be disappointment, social problems, poverty and possibly homelessness.

In 2006 only 6% of rough sleepers were from central or eastern Europe.  In 2013 that had risen to 28%.

We are working with Providence Row and Thames Reach to help.  We funded an exchange scheme: if Romanian homelessness workers t come to London and understand the British system better, and if London outreach workers understand the Romanian view, then we can offer better services.  Good links lead to better resources, resulting in stronger services.

A workshop was held recently to review the exchange visits that had taken place.

The team that went to Poland  visited services provided by an organisation called Monar who take a treatment first approach where people go to detox and stay on a longer term basis. Paid workers are highly skilled with the many having degrees in psychology etc. There is a clear expectation that clients will engage with detox and therapeutic processes or they cannot stay.  There is some coordinated street outreach and outreach workers are clearly identifiable wearing big signs in English to test how educated people are.

The feedback from Romania was markedly different.  The concept of the government and charities working in partnership was thought very strange and in Bucharest a staggering amount of people (the figure of 700+ was quoted)  live underground in the heating and sewage system as its warm and protected from the elements.  Many of these people are in work or education, there are whole families living underground and struggling to survive they don’t have enough money to develop alcohol or drug problems. There are a number of outreach services including specialist medical and psychiatric services, burns are very common due to the use of paraffin stoves.

The team visited a 700 bed government run hostel which was inspired by The Lodge in London but wasn’t very boutique and had a number of restrictions around local connection, washing once a week, abstinence and no HIV+.  They also visited one of the social canteens run by the Government which feeds between 3,000 and 6,000 people per day and offers some other support services. The level of in work poverty means that it’s more appealing to come and be homeless/find low paid illegal work in the UK.

Concern was expressed about the lack of clear referral routes back to Romania and the need for greater understanding around Roma people.  People were also interested in finding out what the situation is like outside of Bucharest in more rural locations.

LHF Trustees will be visiting Romania in June to see homelessness services in Bucharest for themselves and they will report back to the board later this year.

For more information about the EU10 initiative, please contact….

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