"Putting our ideas into the table and sharing good practices is a start. By confronting ideas and adapt them to our reality could be an enormous opportunity to help other facing life with hope".
Braga, the 7th largest municipality in Portugal housing 193,333 inhabitants, plays an important economic, cultural and technological role in the country. Being the third-largest urban centre in Portugal, the number of people intending to live in Braga is increasing. This increase has led to intensifying real estate speculation, leaving the most vulnerable families without access to affordable housing and good living conditions.
Faced challenges and strategies
Although a positive practice and policy awareness view on the homeless situation is present at Braga’s urban level, there is a lack of support in the cities around. Moreover, the service offered to these populations is not updated based on their changing demographics. In addition, with the increase in housing prices leading to the eviction of people with social income, the biggest challenge is to promote accessibility of housing. Despite all these challenges, the city has developed specific actions and innovative solutions such as shared houses to promote affordable housing to combat mainly the situations of homeless people in the streets. In addition, the three non-stop shelters in the city, the innovative model of cooperation between the public and private sector, and piloting Housing First (HF) since 2013 are some of the other strategies in response to the homeless situation.
Activities during the ROOF network project
Braga’s “House of Skills’ ‘ rises as a vision to the action plan aiming to create innovative solutions for transitional housing. Its objective is to integrate homeless people living in temporary housing centers by developing training programs that support their professional reintegration, ensuring their autonomy through the mobilization of all available and resources the full exercise of citizenship.
To support this aim, the municipality works with the Centre for Planning and Intervention for Homeless People (NPISA) as well as the URBACT thematic working group (UGL). In this process, Braga’s ULG meets quarterly to share good practices, identify new approaches, analyze data, and map solutions while learning and practicing URBACT methodology. The two-year intervention process started with the constitution of the Braga ULG, clear awareness, and homelessness situation diagnosis, leading to an ideation process and the development of the SSA. The SSA (currently implemented) result assessment as well as redesigning and approving Braga’s IAP takes place on Feb 2022.
"We have to highlight the commitment in gathering different cities compromised in one goal: Finding solutions, adapted them beyond new realities and most of all trying the best to full fill people needs. Roof project has become a new path to involve other citizens to overcome homelessness and developing new strategies to this problem".
Braga recognizes in lack of employment one of the most influencing factors of not being able to leave the shelter and find new autonomy. Today, no project or service works with homeless people to provide training for the work field, however there is a successful project for people with disabilities. While the target group has different needs, there is a general agreement that a similar program could work for some people living in the shelter today. The SSA will therefore build on the experience of the “skills academy”. They will begin a program called “house of skills” (without a house in the beginning) to test the method before going into big investments. A website will be put in place to communicate the activities and a dedicated project manager will be assigned to the project. The idea is to test whether people will be able to find a job and if companies will be willing to join and offer the opportunity for training and internship. It will be interesting to observe how this changes the reality of the homeless person in the short and long term, as well as the change in mindset of job providers.
"The next stage is to implement it and see its behaviour regarding the beneficiaries. Also we intend to work in an awareness basis seeking to minimise this situation. We are all engaged to this goal. Ending Homelessness!"
Braga's Integrated Action Plan
The aim is to develop a housing response of a permanent nature which is based on the HF model through the implementation of the “House of Skills”, a result of Braga’s Integrated Action Plan developed under the ROOF project.
Braga’s IAP, focusing on the “House of Skills” will be implemented from March 2022 to March 2023. The city’s main objective through this process is to Empower Persons in Homeless situations with Labour, Social and Personal Competencies. The main actions to achieve this objective include:
•Evaluating/measuring the results of the emergency responses of the City to Homelessness
•Re-designing and developing the operational concept of emergency responses to homelessness
•Guaranteeing the permanent updating of knowledge
•Establishing long-term partnerships for HF and other related response
•Re-designing and improving the emotional and social stabilisation of Homeless populations
•Establishing new support services (mental, health, psychological and social support)
•Developing support programmes to promote health, self-esteem and well-being
•Developing time management and financial literacy programmes
•Referring to education and training responses
•Promoting volunteer, occupation and mentoring programmes
•Promote volunteer, occupation and mentoring programmes
•Designing the management model of the “House of Skills”
•Establishing new training action services for employability and basic and vocational skills
•Developing programmes for the prevention and treatment of addictive behaviour
•Designing operational concept for the prevention of People at Social Risk