SRE offers an institutionalized model of integration, which moves beyond the more usual practice of integration of these services in the framework of area-based programmes, and it can provide a solution to the systemic problems created by the Central European housing systems. The SRE model – drawing on recommendations by advocacy groups like FEANTSA – also expands the usual concept of social housing, by integrating the private rental market as an important source of affordable housing provision.
Carrying out five pilot projects in four Central European countries – Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – HomeLab addresses crucial issues in the region, providing stability to households that have formerly been subjected to constant and sudden changes in their housing, making their engagement in the labour market difficult. The intensive case handling, the integrated service provision and the importance of providing employment services combined with constant follow-up and the emphasis on building strong personal relations with the clients allows the Pilot Implementers to reach and work with clients that are normally either difficult to access or hard to keep in the network of the social services.
Furthermore, the pilots test how an SRE like-model (there are divergences in each case, based on the local requirements) can protect vulnerable families from the insecurity of the private rental market and labour market in the given national and local context, and how SREs could be set up/institutionalised in the respective countries. As for the latter, the project also examines to what housing and labour market related problems the SRE model can provide a solution, what are the limitations in each country as a result of the existing institutional and policy conditions and how such barriers can be overcome.
HomeLab combines the implementation of the SRE with rigorous monitoring and evaluation in order to arrive to concrete evidence about the advantages of the model. To do so, it has teamed up with experienced local service providers as Pilot Implementers (From Street to Home and the Hungarian Charity Service of Malta in Hungary, Romodrom in the Czech Republic, People in Need in Slovakia and Habitat Poland in Poland) and with a Budapest-based think tank (with Budapest Institute) to oversee the monitoring and evaluation together with MRI. To make sure that the lessons learned reach the broadest audience possible (including decision makers and stakeholders on national and on EU level) the Dissemination Board of the project includes Habitat for Humanity International’s regional office for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), FEANTSA and Housing Europe.
The five pilots:
The HomeLab project in Poland follows work previously done by Habitat Poland on the possibilities of introducing the Social Rental Enterprise (Społeczna Agencja Najmu i Zatrudnienia) and providing in parallel housing and employment services to clients in need. The pilot is in Warsaw and its main goal is to support the integration of services for individuals and families at risk of poverty and social exclusion. More precisely the target group includes homeless persons, foreign migrants, persons with substance abuse problems or families escaping domestic violence. All households are recruited through partner organisations of Habitat Poland (Caritas of Warsaw, The Open Door Association, Association for Legal Intervention, Salvation Army Social Welfare Centre for the Wola District, Monar Association in Wyszków and „Spoza” Society) and will receive support related to housing, employment and social integration – delivered by Habitat Poland in partnership with these organizations. The housing is secured both through the private rental market and through an agreement with the City of Warsaw.
The pilot project run by ULE in Budapest focuses on a special segment of the homeless population of Budapest: those living in huts on their own. They have no possibilities to acquire legal housing, which is a general problem of the homeless provision system of Budapest, with few and often only temporary solutions that lead the way out of homelessness. ULE, in the framework of HomeLab provides housing for 20 households, and helps them maintain it through very thorough social work and labour market training.
There are three main sources for the housing provided: the most important part comes from the district municipalities 10 and 19 of Budapest – thus these are municipal rentals, where ULE connects the parties. Three are acquired through private support and finally a small portion of the housing is provided by mobile homes. The latter is a novel experience, and has been facilitated by the acquisition of land through a private donor. The housing provision is complemented both with intensive social work and employment service.
Each client has a personal case manager: the social worker supports the client in stabilizing their life after moving into the apartment. The case manager helps in household management, application for benefits, access to health services and crises management.
The employment service is basically a labour market training for the beneficiaries and consists of weekly group consultations and group work for the clients. Furthermore, a new website has been launched that connects the clients with possible – typically temporary – employment opportunities. This is viewed as providing a stepping stone, an essential experience that enables them to proceed and enter the labour market . Better employment situation will also secure their housing with a more stable income.
The Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta (HCSOM) provides complex services in the fields of employment, housing and social support in the framework of the HomeLab project in the town of Veszprém. The town lies very close to important touristic centres and generally suffers a lack of labour shortage, which in turn influences greatly its housing market. Prices are very high, comparable The pilot is the largest one of HomeLab, involving 75 households, and focusing on different types of vulnerable groups including tenants of the municipal apartments of Veszprém, tenants accumulating arrears, homeless people, people moving into Veszprem in search of job opportunities and finally leaving detention facilites, people having lost the ownership of their apartments as a result of the financial and economic crisis.
Under HomeLab, PIN apply the Social Rental Enterprise model, operating in three microregions in Slovakia, combining first and foremost labour and housing activities, by providing additional social work. PIN is already running community centres in five microregions, and the pilot will operate in three of those. The HomeLab intervenes by three different approaches in each locality considering housing: access to private rental together with job counselling, self-help constructions and job counselling and assistance with legalisation of existing houses with job counselling.
PIN is already running community centres in five microregions, and the pilot will operate in three of these:
In all three microregions, PIN is operating in excluded Roma localities (part of settlements), where the living conditions and basic indicators are similar: most people live in low-standard illegal houses (without access to public water inside the dwelling, sewage and other basic infrastructure), the unemployment rate is 70% or higher (with a predominance of long term unemployment), the acquired level of education is very low (in most cases only primary school or unfinished secondary education) and for most of the families the main source of income are state social benefits (ranging from 60 to 220 EUR per month). As a consequence, the potential of socially excluded Roma in all three micro regions, possibility to enter the open labour market as well as to acquire a legal and standard housing is low, and the chances of breaking the cycle of poverty and exclusion without external intervention are weak.
The pilot project is realized in three regions of the Czech Republic – Moravian Silesian Region, Olomouc Region and Pardubice Region, where it will support at least 45 households in total. The aim is to improve housing and job situation of socially excluded persons.
The pilot is based on the concept of help to move the households living in unfavourable housing (legal/illegal hostels, shelters, poor quality housing etc.) to standard housing for affordable price and to help them manage their financial situation by getting employment or other type of legal job.
Persons selected for the project will be actively cooperating with the organisation. The project ensures individualized case handling by two social workers in each region, who support final beneficiaries through three project phases: selection and preparation of end beneficiaries; support through entering into standard housing and formal employment; and continued accompanying social work once clients’ employment and housing situation is stabilized. Apartments for clients will be rented mostly from the private market, for that reason Romodrom aims to establish Social Rental Agency.
As the target group of the pilot project is high risk, ensuring adequate work income can be arduously difficult, even once housing is stabilized. Therefore, the organisation will ensure intensive support in finding potential threats to employment, and overcoming them through individualized training, support and accompaniment. Field workers will maintain very close and intensive cooperation with clients, and they will pay particular attention to the stability of the beneficiary’s situation.
The success of the project is indeed the combination of the employment and social inclusion services with housing, thus ensuring the long-term impact on peoples’ lives.
Housing services are based on either acquiring the right to municipal social tenancy for the SRE client and his/her family or on finding stable housing on the private market. In both cases, the client will have a secure tenure, which is not only affordable but also provides a long-term solution to solving his/her housing problem. The SRE will either act as the manager of the housing stock – in case it owns/operates the social housing stock of the municipality – or be the intermediary actor, moderating between the parties and solving the issues of availability of stock, lack of trust or exaggerated deposit.
Employment services have two axes: in-country labour mobility on the one hand, and local labour market integration on the other. In areas where there is a strong demand for labour (either skilled or unskilled), it is a reasonable ambition to move prospective employees from weak market areas, where jobs are scarce. This does not only mean interregional mobility but might also mean helping persons move from relatively remote agglomeration towns with weak transport connections closer to urban centres with a greater demand for workforce. Employment services need to include networking with local employers, assessing needs in terms of human resources, and recruitment in job-scarce areas/settlements (with an excess supply of labour force). Additional services may help the integration of mobile workforce into their new environment. This activity requires coordinating with employment and social services in weak market regions. Employment services must also provide help for the local population. The target group of this activity is made up of households who face housing problems primarily due to unemployment or a disadvantageous labour market position. Within its target group, the SREs prioritize persons or households who can also in need of housing service provision: people without stable housing who are unable to enter the housing market due to their unsecured labour market position. They would receive complex housing and employment services from the SRE in order to prepare them to enter available training and employment programmes, to help them enter the labour market, and provide mentoring to help them stabilize their employment position.
Social services provide the third leg of the SRE. In the framework of the HomeLab project, they are partly provided by the personalised case handling of the social workers, partly by the national/local institutions. Building partnerships with them and making sure that social benefits available for the clients are duly received is an important task of the SRE.