On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Eurodiaconia calls on the European Union and its Member States to address homelessness and housing exclusion with increased urgency, as it remains one of the most extreme forms of poverty and social exclusion in our societies today.

According to the United Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to push up to 115 million additional people into extreme poverty around the world, threatening several years of progress[1].

The pandemic is having a far-reaching impact on persons experiencing structural homelessness and social exclusion. The effects of this crisis have significantly exacerbated pre-existing barriers to social and healthcare services, as well as to access hygiene and isolation spaces and coherent information. People experiencing extreme poverty, particularly homelessness,  are disproportionally affected by poor health conditions and disabilities and therefore have also been facing a greater risk of developing severe or critical illness as a result of the virus [2].

The COVID-19 crisis is also reminding us of the devastating consequences of human activities on the environment. The consequences of human-made climate change due to the overexploitation of natural resources and pollution largely impact the quality of life, health and access to resources of the most impoverished populations – among them the people living in homelessness. People living in poverty often have fewer levers with which to make sustainable choices, due to insufficient financial resources or limited room for manoeuvre (e.g. poorly insulated housing that is difficult to heat or having no shelter at all). More investment in social housing and the “Housing First” approach is needed.

Eurodiaconia Secretary General Heather Roy stated: “Extreme poverty and homelessness undermines the human dignity of affected individuals, limiting their capacity to develop their potential and to participate fully in society. Furthermore, it damages social cohesion and the potential for inclusive economic growth. A coordinated response to homelessness is necessary to counteract rising social inequalities and reinforce the EU’s aspiration of principle 19 of the European Pillar of Social Rights regarding housing and assistance for the homeless, which is yet far from the daily reality faced by the growing number of people left in destitution in Europe. We call on the European Union to prioritise combatting extreme poverty and homelessness in its vision for a sustainable and fair Europe. ” 

With over 30,000 service centres, approximately 800,000 staff and over a million volunteers around Europe, the Eurodiaconia network is a dynamic, Europe-wide community of social and health care organisations founded in the Christian faith and working in the tradition of Diaconia.