Homelessness Crisis in Europe and the USA: A Clear Call to Action

The Growing Homelessness Crisis in Europe and the USA 

In recent years, we have sadly become accustomed to witnessing a significant number of homeless individuals in European and US cities.  

According to the latest report from the European Federation of Sectoral Associations, at least 895,000 people in Europe were homeless, a consistently rising trend worsened by the consequences of the war in Ukraine. 

The overall picture is alarming, as data collected by the European Federation of national organizations assisting the homeless (Feantsa) and the Fondation Abbé Pierre in the report titled “Poor Housing in Europe,” published on September 5, 2023, reveal a critical and worsening situation. 

The escalating housing insecurity not only involves people without a fixed place to sleep but also affects those compelled to seek emergency accommodations. The report raises the alarm about how unfit housing conditions, such as overcrowding, mould, dampness, exposure to pollution and poor sanitation, affect the poorest segments of the population, exacerbating poverty and perpetuating social exclusion. 

Homelessness Crisis

Structural Increase in Homelessness in Europe 

The European Union witnesses a structural increase in this phenomenon, with a 30% rise from the last estimation in 2018, while the numbers have surged by 70% over the past decade. The situation has been further exacerbated by the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, directly impacting energy prices and inflation rates. 

To counter this concerning trend, unprecedented political efforts and courageous structural measures are required. 

Every night, in Europe, a city the size of Marseille or Turin is homeless” (Report “Poor Housing in Europe”) 

The European Platform and Upcoming Actions 

In June 2021, spurred by the initiative of the Portuguese socialist government, the European Union established a platform to address the issue of homelessness, aiming ambitiously to resolve it completely by 2030. Nevertheless, tangible results have been limited so far. Only three out of the 27 EU member states have observed a slight decline in homelessness: Finland, Denmark, and Austria. These countries have adopted the “Housing First” strategy, which involves providing housing as the primary step before facilitating access to healthcare and educational services. 

For 2024, the European Platform for the Homeless plans a series of activities across different European cities to enhance the quality of research, including a pilot project for homeless counts based on a common methodology. Additionally, Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, will commence gathering specific data on this matter. 

Homelessness in the United States 

The United States are not immune to this emergency.

Homelessness Crisis

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s report in January 2023, over 650,000 individuals were homeless, marking a 12% increase from 2022. This figure represents the highest count since 2007, which initiated the homeless population census. 

Thousands of American citizens have been affected by the end of pandemic government support measures such as eviction moratoriums, coupled with skyrocketing rents reaching record levels. In 2021, nearly 90% of low-income families earning less than $15,000 spent over 30% of their income on housing, rendering it unaffordable. 

Despite previous progress in reducing homelessness in the USA, the post-pandemic situation has led to a general 12% increase of homeless population, with increments of 7.4% among ex-servicemen and 15.5% among families with children. 

African Americans, constituting only 13% of the U.S. population, represent 37% of the homeless. Moreover, over a quarter of homeless adults are over 54 years old. 

Among the five states witnessing the most substantial homeless increases in recent years, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, and California, have seen increments ranging from 5.8% in California to 39.1% in New York State. 

The growing homelessness crisis in both Europe and the United States necessitates urgent interventions and sustainable measures to address this social emergency.