6 Facts About Homelessness in Portugal
Portugal’s idyllic location near the Atlantic Ocean has made it a popular location for tourists around the globe. The Mediterranean nation’s legacy as a maritime empire, beaches in the Azores region and specialty seafood dishes such as grilled cod come to mind for many. While it enjoys its status as a developed country, it is not immune to social and economic problems. One of Portugal’s most pressing issues is homelessness. The nation has taken several initiatives to address the situation within its borders. Here are eight facts about homelessness in Portugal.

8 Facts About Homelessness in Portugal

  1. Homeless Portuguese people account for 0.04% of the population. As of early 2020, 4,414 out of 10 million population were on the streets.
  2. The majority of the homeless in Portugal are men. Recent surveys on homelessness in Portugal found that 82% of the homeless population were male.
  3. The homeless population in Portugal is rising. A recent study after the 2008 recession found that the number of homeless increased by 14% in a five-year span, from 1,445 to 1,679. This number has increased substantially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic placed unique pressures on the Portuguese capital regarding the homeless. With COVID-19 shutting down the economy, many of Lisbon’s residents lost their jobs. In addition, the pandemic affected those with odd jobs, followed by non-contract workers and eventually members of the lower-middle class. As a result, many found themselves on the streets as they were unable to provide for themselves. Before the pandemic, Lisbon had 360 homeless people according to municipal services. About 200 people stay in homeless shelters. However, these shelters are no longer large enough to accommodate the current numbers.
  5. Fortunately, the Basic Housing Law made housing an official right for all Portuguese. In 2019, a bill passed that placed the responsibility of ensuring adequate housing to citizens on the Portuguese government. This law highlights the importance of the social function of housing, with the goals of eliminating homelessness, using public real estate for price-friendly housing and forbidding tenant evictions especially in Lisbon, the capital.
  6. The Portuguese government is working with NGOs to eliminate housing problems. Since 2009, Housing First has gained significant attention from policymakers. AEIPS, an NGO, operates it in tandem with university researchers. It was first implemented in the parish of Santa Maria Maior but has since extended to the entire city of Lisbon. The project provided people with immediate access to independent apartments in various areas while offering support services unique to each individual’s issues. Over 2,051 of Portugal’s homeless benefit from the initiatives of Housing First.
  7. Portugal’s homeless receive healthcare from street teams. These street teams, which mostly consist of hired or medical volunteers, receive funding from public and private resources. Their priority is to reduce harm in substance abuse amongst the homeless. The teams typically offer risk-reduction programs and emergency first aid in cases of negligence.
  8. The Portuguese capital is spearheading efforts to combat homelessness swiftly. Teaming with the aforementioned Housing First, the Lisbon city council made a pledge for the 2019-2021 period. The city council announced its intention to invest €14.5 million in tackling homelessness. Additionally, the city council plans to build 400 homes available for use by 2023.

The economic implications of the 2008 recession paired with the effects of the current COVID-19 pandemic have aggravated what the Portuguese president defined as a national challenge. Luckily, both national and local governments are introducing initiatives to weather and reduce homelessness in the upcoming years. If Portugal continues to zero in on this issue and make good on its promise to provide housing for all, then perhaps this challenge will become a thing of the past for this developed nation. In addition, Portugal could inspire other countries struggling with homelessness to do the same.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr