This Peer Review discussed challenges and good practices in providing adequate social assistance to homeless people despite the lack of a permanent address.
The event focused on the measures put in place by Member States to facilitate the access to minimum income and other welfare benefits to homeless people, on how to better monitor the non-take up rates of homeless people and on how to design measures to improve access to social benefits and reach-out to homeless people.
The Belgian Federal Public Planning Service Social Integration hosted experts from Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Romania. In addition, representatives from the European Commission, Belgian and European NGOs as well as international and national experts put the topic in the wider context of EU policy.
The fight against homelessness is one of the main priorities of the current Belgian ‘Action Plan on Poverty Reduction’. While there is not a national strategy against homelessness yet, a cooperation agreement on homelessness was concluded in 2014 between the Federal State, the Regions and the Communities. All parties committed to ensuring that each homeless person can have a place to sleep and social assistance.
However, the lack of a permanent address or residence can represent a challenge to ensure the right to social integration, including the minimum income, for homeless people. Therefore, in Belgium, access to social assistance and social rights is linked to the registration at an address: either the place where one actually lives or a so-called 'reference address'. A reference address can be at the address of another natural person, a non-profit organisation or a Public Centre for Social Welfare.
The Peer Review built on Belgium's experience with the experience of a 'reference address', as well as on practices from other European countries.