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Focus on Thessaloniki (GR): testing the Housing First methodology on a small scale

Edited on

07 April 2022
Read time: 7 minutes

Just last month, a homeless man, Kostas Pavlidis, known to most Salonicans strolling in the city center died on the streets in the center of the city amidst a rare cold wave soaring across the country. He had for a period of time stayed at the homeless shelter run by the Municipality, was known to Municipal and NGO homeless services but it was clearly not enough nor tailored to support a homeless person with multiple issues. The details of this specific case aside, the truth is that homeless shelters have not proven to be the most effective
long-term solution to homelessness and in times of crisis, so bluntly evident during the pandemic, shelters were unable to ensure protection, safety and health services to most homeless, let alone cover complex needs of individuals in a street situation.

It is with this necessity in mind that the Municipality of Thessaloniki together with its long-standing NGO partners ARSIS and PRAKSIS decided to dedicate efforts on piloting a Housing First initiative for the first time in the country through support from the URBACT Small Scale Actions and the ROOF network. The pilot Housing Initiative aims to test the Housing First methodology and support tools with three homeless individuals. The action develops tailored tools for the context in Thessaloniki, develops a service hub among existing organisations providing mental health, combating addiction, social support services among others.

The action aims to scale up the initiative to the national level by integrating a veritable Housing First component in the National Homelessness Programme managed by the General Secretariat of Poverty of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. The Municipality of Thessaloniki, together with ARSIS and PRAKSIS have been running the local leg of the national homelessness programme for a number of programmatic cycles. The small scale action aims at using the resources provided by the national programme (rent subsidies to homeless entering the programme, employability and other social services as well as administrative staff) and complement it with dedicated Housing First services. The small scale action foresees a mid-term evaluation of the action with a view to assess how it can be integrated into the national programme, including upscaling the service plans and operational plans for Housing First that will be developed at local level.

The ROOF network and its friends have been essential in providing much needed technical know-how as well as the opportunity for peer learning from other cities who are differet levels of experimenting with combating homelessness through Housing First. Our first attempt in Thessaloniki is small but the results we want to achieve are beyond the boundaries of the small scale action. We seek to move away from shelterisation, to adopt Housing First as a fundamental component of a future national strategy to combat homelessness at national level, to bolster a holistic constellation of services for homeless around Housing First with appropriate funding and remain true to our vision of housing for all.