Use available hotel rooms to temporarily house the economically homeless

March 10, 2022

In order to prevent the economically homeless from falling deeper into misery, a possible solution is to temporarily accommodate these people, for example in available hotel rooms. This emerges from a report by Wageningen University & Research, commissioned by social organisation De Regenboog Groep in Amsterdam. Economically homeless is the term for the group of people who have no permanent residence and don’t have additional special needs, such as physical care or help with alcohol addiction.

How can we better support the economically homeless in finding temporary housing? This question from De Regenboog Groep came in via the Science Shop of Wageningen University & Research (WUR). The Science Shop of WUR organises research projects for non-profit organisations with limited (financial) resources who are facing a challenge or need an answer to a question. The Science Shop makes funding available for this purpose.

Preventing a downward spiral

Together with students from WUR, researcher Karin Peters studied the situation of economically homeless people in and around Amsterdam for two years. Three insights were gained. The first is that it makes sense to offer temporary shelter to homeless people who do not need additional care. In this way, a downward spiral can be prevented. At the same time, the study shows that such a temporary place can be a stepping stone to a permanent home.

Preventing social problems

Peters describes the second insight as preventing social problems. Temporary housing for the economically homeless reduces the chance they will eventually develop other problems The societal costs for people in the care domain are much higher than for the economically homeless.

If the economically homeless have a temporary place to stay, the chance they will develop other problems on the longer term will be smaller.
Karin Peters

Addressing the problem

The last important lesson we can draw from the WUR research is that society should pay more attention to the shame that prevails among the economically homeless. You have to make it discussable, even if it is very difficult", according to Peters. As an example she mentions a Swedish pilot project in Helsingborg. There, the starting point is not a category of people ('economically homeless'), but  a person. In Sweden the starting point is not a category of people ('economically homeless'), but an individual person. They ask homeless people what their personal needs are. In this way, the social workers work with individual responses in order to create tailored solutions.

Available hotel rooms as a temporary solution

As a result of tourists staying away, the corona crisis was disastrous for the hotel industry. It did, however, open up the possibility of using the vacant rooms in a different way. A number of economically homeless people in Amsterdam were allocated temporary hotel rooms. They paid the room rent themselves at a reduced rate. The research shows that this form of temporary shelter offered by hotels is therefore important, also in the future when the corona crisis no longer prevails. A small number of temporarily available hotel rooms can already relieve the pressure on the usual shelter. This offers a larger amount of people the time and mental space to regain an overview of the situation'.

The experience gained so far regarding temporary accommodation in hotels is positive. This applies to both the economically homeless and the hotels.
Karin Peters