In 1954 French priest and founder of the Emmaus charity Abbé Peirre said: ‘‘My friends, please help….a woman has just frozen to death. Tonight in all the cities of France this should be heard – those of you who suffer, where ever you might be, with nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat, take hope, we love you.’‘
Sixty years on since that speech, France and Europe’s homeless problem shows no signs of disappearing and actually appears to be getting worse.
In addition, more and more people in Europe are living in poor housing.
Due in large part to the global financial crisis, increasing numbers find themselves in dilapidated accommodation, frequently without basic amenities such as running water and heating.
France’s homeless problem appears particularly acute. In the last decade the number of people in poor housing has risen by 50 percent. This affects more than 3.5 million French. Just under 150,000 are living on the street.
But it is not only France. The latest figures show homelessness across Europe has increased. The most notable rises are in those member states hit hardest by the economic crisis, and in big cities like London.
The rise in poverty and social exclusion is also a worrying trend across the EU, with nearly a quarter of the bloc’s population suffering.
Equally concerning perhaps is the figure that just under 10 percent of Europeans live in severe deprivation.
Figures suggest women, children and those under the age of 25 find getting proper accommodation and escaping the poverty trap especially difficult. Some 50,000 Roma in France also struggle to obtain social housing.
In Greece, a lack of jobs has pushed thousands onto the streets. One of the fastest growing reasons across Europe for homelessness is when tenancy agreements end and people are unable to find or afford an alternative.
During his election campaign President Francois Hollande made improvements in social housing one of his priorities. But, 60 years after Abbé Pierre’s appeal for help for France’s homeless, critics say the French government has failed to do enough to fulfill this pledge, as well as get people off the streets.