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Beyond sleeping rough, homelessness may include situations of living in temporary, insecure or poor-quality housing. Typical causes of homelessness are:

  • unemployment and poverty
  • migration
  • ageing
  • health problems
  • relationship breakdowns
  • lack of affordable housing for rent and for sale
  • inadequate support for people leaving care facilities, hospitals, prisons or other public institutions.

Homeless people may face reduced life expectancy, health problems, discrimination, isolation and barriers to access to basic public services and benefits.


Challenges for the EU include:

  • Homelessness levels have risen recently in most parts of Europe. The crisis seems to have aggravated the situation.
  • The profile of the homeless population has been changing and now includes more young people and children, migrants, Roma and other disadvantaged minorities, women and families are increasingly at-risk of homelessness.
  • Lack of comprehensive data which would allow for monitoring homelessness in the EU.
  • High social cost of not tackling homelessness, particularly regarding the health and justice services use.

See also poverty and social exclusion.

Policy response

EU Member States have primary responsibility and competence to address homelessness. The EU's Social Investment Package encourages them to:

  • Adopt long-term, housing-led, integrated homelessness strategies at national, regional and local level
  • Introduce efficient policies to prevent evictions.

Effective homelessness strategies may cover:

  • Prevention and early intervention
  • Quality homelessness service delivery
  • Rapid re-housing
  • Systematic data collection, monitoring and using shared definitions (ETHOS typology).

The EU can support action by Member States, including funding from the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD).

A set of EU policies such as social inclusion, regional development, migration, financial regulation, health and human rights policies help address the complex causes of homelessness.

The Commission provides guidance on confronting homelessness within the Social Investment Package. It explores trends in homelessness, good practices by Member States and core elements of integrated homelessness strategies, highlighting the support role of the EU.


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