"Of course, Odense would like to take part in a project together with other committed cities, to ensure the implementation of Housing First in the work of abolishing homelessness. [...] The situation in Odense at that time was that we had worked from the Housing First thinking for over 10 years [...] But we also had challenges in maintaining focus on the fact that the work was based on a holistic thinking "Housing First" [...] Therefore, the invitation came at the perfect time, so we could focus on making the work even better and create a higher degree of sustainability in our overall efforts in the municipality".
Since 2009 Odense has worked on integrated action plans, aiming to reduce homelessness based on the Housing First (HF) approach. The efforts around HF thinking, cooperation with housing associations and the 23,000 social housing units covering 25% of the housing market, have led to major success in the city, demonstrating a 40% decrease in homelessness in the span of 10 years (2009-2019). While the homeless population in Denmark has had a total increase of 29%, the number of inhabitants facing homelessness in Odense is limited to 125 people.
Faced challenges and strategies
Despite the success achieved in Odense during the past few years, maintaining focus on HF thinking while preventing homelessness and guaranteeing a coherent HF approach in new employees and stakeholders still remain the main challenges faced. During the implementation of the HF, having a flexible approach in making adjustments and coming to decisions during the process have outstanding importance. Therefore local stakeholders (including politicians, NGOs, service providers, officials, landlords, etc) are divided into subgroups that ensure future possibilities and implementation of HF efforts while maintaining focus on the accomplished works.
Activities during the ROOF network project
A political process started in 2020 in the municipality has led to various meetings (between municipality employees, NGOs working with homelessness, and homeless representatives) aiming to abolish and reduce homelessness significantly. These outcomes were then discussed with different stakeholders in the first quarter of 2021.
Although COVIDhas slowed down the national homeless count work and has postponed the SSA meeting (a joint event for ULGs), the process of introducing new legislation in the homeless area has reached a national parliamentary agreement at the end of 2021. This national legislation focuses on both Housing and social matters e.g. affordable housing development, working from the HF model incl. HF support, increasing municipal involvement and obligations, etc, are expected to be presented in the summer of 2022 and to go into force during 2022/2023. There will be a national homeless count in week 6 2022.
"In relation to Odense, there are some areas where we are so privileged that some things are implemented both nationally and locally, e.g. national homelessness counts through 12 years. And Housing First through 10 years. But therefore, it is still rewarding to participate in discussions about initiatives that have already been implemented. This makes you even more dedicated to maintaining the initiatives that are already in operation and which are called for in other cities / countries".
A meeting with key people from all areas, to reflect on the work done and optimize the future work in Odense
Housing First was implemented and has been working for quite some time now in Odense. However, a lot has been done during the last year with the COVID pandemic and it is important to share and internally evaluate the efforts and recognize things that they have not done yet. Furthermore, even though HF is well implemented, there are still some stakeholders who are not experts in the field. The SSA will aim at evaluating the past work and at creating a larger group of expertsstakeholders that will have an ownership of the project making sure the quality is maintained over time. Practically, the SSA will consist of a large meeting and the activation of new communication channels.
"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!"
Odense's Integrated Action Plan
As a consequence of the government’s national homeless strategy, launched in 2009, the focus in Odense municipality is now on maintenance of the HF efforts while abolishing/ reducing homelessness significantly.
All ULG members -either as politicians, NGOs, service providers, officials, landlords, or key persons in relation to life in the city streets- have a huge importance in implementing HF.
The meetings held through 2020-2021, have resulted in 5 objectives: knowledge sharing, new employees or managers, legislation, interfaces and distribution of roles and workflow. These objectives aim to maintain the HF effort in Odense municipality, by implementing the following actions starting from 2022:
•Developing a Homepage for Housing First to share current efforts
•Creating action cards about Housing First to give information about the HF approach
Working with HF ambassadors/Housing agents who support the departments working on HF
Collaborating with experts who work in relation to HF
Holding Annual Meetings to share info between different actors
"We want to ensure that there are available key resource persons in the municipality, who also have an obligation to ensure the handling of new challenges that will constantly arise in relation to the work with Housing First. We want to ensure that it becomes easier to access information and knowledge about Housing First for everyone in the municipality, both municipal employees, NGOs and citizens in the municipality. We will work to develop the collaboration with the private housing market".