Housing First: a solution for eradicating homelessness in Europe

Webinar with Branagh R. O’Shaughnessy and Marta Gaboardi, June 30, 2022, 5 PM (CET)

Please register here.

About the webinar

Housing First: Europe’s Capabilities-Enhancing Homeless Service Model (Branagh R. O’Shaughnessy, Ronni Michelle Greenwood, & Rachel Manning)

Abstract:

Being able to control your living space or having enough food to sustain yourself are basic personal freedoms that we often taken for granted. These basic freedoms form part of Nussbaum’s Central Capabilities which refer to the essential elements of a well-lived life. However, many capabilities dimensions are absent in the lives of adults experiencing homelessness, who often do not have control over their living space or enough food to sustain themselves. As part of a Horizon 2020 project on homelessness as unfairness across eight European countries, two studies were carried out to examine homeless adults’ capabilities. The first study quantitatively examined the relationship between homeless service type (Housing First (HF) or treatment as usual (TAU)) (N = 565) and capabilities at two timepoints. Findings showed that HF service users had heightened capabilities compared to TAU, and that this relationship was mediated by choice and housing quality. The second study qualitatively examined the capabilities, including internal and external affordances and constraints, of homeless services users in HF and TAU (N = 77). Three themes were identified: autonomy and dependency, the relational impact of living arrangements, and community interaction and stigma. Overall compared to TAU, HF is progressing to reverse many of the inequalities experienced by homeless adults. HF service users have much greater opportunities to maximise their capabilities and sustain a life of dignity and well-being compared to those in TAU. Thus, policies aligned with a HF model in Europe are recommended as a solution for persistent and prevailing homelessness in Europe.

Working with people experiencing homelessness (Marta Gaboardi)

Social service providers in homeless services may experience burnout and stress caused by helping people with multiple problems in complex working environments. Moreover, professionals’ well-being and their working conditions can strongly influence client outcomes. Nevertheless, few studies have been conducted on factors affecting social service providers’ work that may increase the risk of work-related stress and then affect the relationship with people experiencing homelessness.

As part of a Horizon 2020 project HOME_EU: “Homelessness as unfairness”, 17 photovoice projects involving 81 social service providers were carried out across eight European countries. This cross-national research examined social service providers’ perspectives in Housing First and Traditional Staircase models regarding factors that facilitate or hinder their work.  

This study proposes an innovative use of photovoice for cross‐national research that allows participants to express their experiences about a topic through photographic language. In particular, this study showed five main advantages of using photovoice in cross‐national research: visual language, methodological flexibility, participatory data analysis, the bottom‐up process, and the promotion of social change.

The results show factors affecting social service providers’ work at three levels: systemic, organizational, and individual. Some challenges are common to the two types of service: the difficulty with the broader community (such as citizens’ opinions and in influencing policy), the importance of the support among colleagues, and the difficulty in balancing the relationship with clients. Nevertheless, in Housing First social service providers seem to have the best conditions to work since they identified more facilitators than obstacles.


Dr Branagh R. O’Shaughnessy is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University. Branagh’s doctoral research examined empowerment-orientated homeless service provision, part of which was aligned with the international Horizon 2020 study, Homelessness as Unfairness (HOME_EU). HOME_EU incorporated multiple perspectives, including that of citizens, service providers, and service users, to examine the issue of chronic homelessness in Europe. Branagh’s research interests lie in empowering interventions for marginalised individuals experiencing mental health and substance use challenges.


Dr Marta Gaboardi is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Developmental Psychology and Socialisation, University of Padova. She achieved her Ph.D. in Psychological Sciences at the University of Padova in 2020. She is a community psychologist and her research activities focus mainly on: homelessness, social service providers’ well-being and community integration. During her Ph.D. she collaborated at the European project HOME_EU: “Homelessness as Unfairness” (H2020 research project) to examine the issue of homelessness in Europe with an ecological and multilevel perspective.