Homeless People in European Stations (HOPE)


By URBACT, on May 3rd, 2010

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In his book “Down and Out in Paris and London”(published 1933), George Orwell sketched a documentary picture of itinerant homelessness where the underlying causes and effects, many might argue, are little changed some 80 years on. In the URBACT Tribune Heidrun Feigelfeld returned to a feature of this theme in her article “Lost Job – Lost Home / Lost Home – Lost Job”. The economic, and therefore social crisis is surely aggravating the situation on the ground. However despite concerted and valuable (sometimes cynical – hosing down pavements in London to prevent rough sleepers) national and local, even transnational efforts, the most honest assessment is that this problem has never truly left us. Our attention is perhaps most focused on the scale and gravity of the situation as we pass through our busy city railway stations.

Yesterday with support of the EU PROGRESS programme (social innovation), the countries of Luxembourg, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Poland and France, together with the respective railway companies, launched a trans-national project to improve the conditions and accompaniment of homeless people in EU stations. A team has been assembled to exchange international expertise and experience to address the social component as well as management issues, where traditionally railway authorities have in the past only intervened in attempting to contain or displace the problem. The European Commission allocates 350,000€ to the project with each of the involved member states contributing 260,000€.
Follow this on the FEANTSA website where there is also information on reports from recent university studies from Liège and Antwerp which suggest that the demographic profile of homeless people is changing. The term “Homeless” is becoming more and more associated with young people, people with mental or physical problems and including whole families with children as well as single females.
If indeed the shortage of affordable housing and inadequately low incomes are at the source of the problem, it will be interesting to see if such an initiative can indeed engender a more compassionate and inclusive response to at least one specific manifestation of the impact. Read also “Homelessness and Exclusion: Regulating public space in European Cities”, J. Doherty et al, 2008 – where examination of the words regulation, discipline and deterrence remind us of the other side of the coin in dealing with this issue.

Philip Stein
URBACT Thematic Pole Manager

2 Responses to “Homeless People in European Stations (HOPE)”

  1. Jim Bennett says:

    I have been trying to find a TV documentary about homeless children who wewre living in a railway station but who then moved to the country and eventually to a small structure to live with their baby. These where street children and the documentary preceeded Underground and way originally shown on TV in the UK sometime in the late 90’s or early 00’s. I have a feeling that it was caqlled by someones name though I could be mistaken. I want to write something about this, perhaps do a follow up, but cannot find it. Do you have any ideas?

  2. Philip Stein Philip Stein says:

    Sorry Jim, I’m afraid it doesn’t ring a bell for me. Perhaps if you contact FEANTSA and ask them the same question, maybe someone in their network will know?

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