We have set-up the project to have a framework from where we could motivate ourselves, be inspired by others and collaborate with other in orde to reach our goal of ending homelessness.
Ghent, a historical and student city with over 260,000 inhabitants, is the 2nd largest city of the Flemish Region. With the existing number of 13,000 social housing units, covering only 9% of the housing market, the city struggles with a housing crisis that places 550 inhabitants in the homeless situation and approximately 10,000 on the waiting list for affordable housing.
Faced challenges and strategies
Ghent has a mix of classical shelter solutions and some temporary and permanent housing solutions for the homeless. Over the years there has not been a decline in the number of homeless people that are using homelessness services. Next to that, there is a group of chronic homeless people living in ever more inhumane conditions with especially mental illness and addictions as consequence. Ghent wants to work on prevention, housing the homeless and getting a system of rapid rehousing in place for those that will become homeless. The main needs are funding, a supralocal policy in favour of affordable housing and Housing First (HF) and housing solutions for people with addiction and/or mental health issues.
Activities during the ROOF network project
Aiming to end chronic legal homelessness by 2040, Ghent takes a three-step approach that focuses on housing the homeless, preventing homelessness and data collection. This goal is supported by the URBACT Action Planning Network ROOF through the exchange of knowledge, advocacy and the local Integrated Action Plan (IAP).
Considering social housing as the main housing solution to rapid rehousing and the HF approach, the Ghent action plan works out a detailed proposal showing the real possibility of ending chronic homelessness by 2040 while housing half of the people currently on the waiting list for social housing. On the other hand Robust housing and ‘Care hostel’ are among some of the solutions to housing with care and are built with an attention to peace and privacy. Moreover, to ensure continuity in assistance in the future, three types of support including temporary housing support, long-term housing coaching, and long-term dedicated team support for Housing First are organised. Among other things, the homeless count of October 2020 has provided a detailed view of the homeless households and is to be repeated every two to three years as an essential building block of the homeless policy action plan.
"The talks with partners created an atmosphere of collaborative engagement in ending homelessness [...] the overall URBACT approach and the specific approach of our Lead Expert created a very efficient and content/solution-driven vibe. We made things happen and we have taken real steps in ending homelessness [...] Through the international exchange, we were able to inspire the local dialogue with our Urbact Local Group. We noticed a mental shift..."
A local innovative collaboration between partners from mental health, drug care clinics, housing support and general social work. Clever re-arrangements of existing FTE that have a big caseload already
With Housing First up and running, the city of Ghent feels the need to improve the support system especially through collaboration between different support sectors. Today mental health, drug care clinics, housing and social work are not collaborating close enough. Time is lost on passing information, information is lost in privacy protection and users still need to answer to too many different service providers. With the opportunity of working with 3 beneficiaries, who usually drop out of the housing system, this SSA will simulate a new team working together for the first time. The team will use the Open Dialogue approach that will be brought by a dedicated trainer. It will test new ways to arrange timetables, visits, communication and collaborative work generally. Based on the experiences of those 3 first beneficiaries, a team will be formed for 11 people that will be living in Robust Houses (Skaeve Huse). The results will also affect the formation of ACT teams that can be assigned where needed in the larger Housing first system.
"The action plan will be approved by the different city platforms and finally the city council [...] The ULG will continously concretize the actions of our IAP [...]"
Ghent's Integrated Action Plan
Currently managing homelessness by three main methods of prevention, crisis management and permanent housing with support, Ghent’s future strategy - which is directly informed through the ROOF project exchange - would be to invest more in prevention and permanent housing with support. The ULG, a subgroup of the task force Housing and Shelter, will continue to work in close collaboration with all relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the Action Plan to End Homelessness by 2040.
The draft of the action plan is continuously being readjusted. The final version was validated by the entire ULG and the Ghent local government in May 2022 and will be put to action from 2023.
• Organising homeless count every three years
• Setting up a homeless monitoring dashboard
• Committing to systematically collecting scientifically validated data
•Including homeless people into social housing/elaboration of the local allocation rules
•Signing up the homeless people on the social housing waiting list
•Realising a supply expansion of 2,500 new social houses by 2030
•Realising Robust houses
•Developing a business case for a new business vehicle gathering real estate to house the homeless population
•Scaling up the model of leasehold renovation/new construction
•Exploring ocial Impact Bond to house homeless people
•Introducing sliding rental contracts
•Collaborating with real estate agencies
•Exhausting the application for Flemish rental subsidy
•Creating an offer of tailor-made support
•Reigning, overviewing and aligning alternative forms of supported housing with care
•Introducing and developing a care hostel
•Scaling up prevention of homelessness
Arts and Homelessness