Lisbon city council has announced plans to invest €14.5 million in the new municipal plan to tackle homelessness and will make 400 homes available by 2023 under its ‘Housing First’ programme.

The Municipal Plan for the Person in a situation of Homelessness (PMPSA) 2019-2021 was unanimously approved by the municipality in June for submission to public consultation.

According to a source in the office of the council officer for social rights, Manuel Grilo of the Left Bloc, a party that has an agreement with the governing Socialist Party, “the plan has been reviewed and extended based on public discussion and meetings” with the mayor, Fernando Medina, and with the Socialist government at the centre.

The PMPSA will run from 2020 to 2023 and investment will increase from the expected €4.3 million to €14.5 million, to be spent on getting people off the streets as well as improving the premises where homeless people are helped, the same source said.

“After an extensive discussion on the municipal plan for homeless people and with the pressure created on the Government, Social Security and other entities, we were able to drastically widen what was initially foreseen,” Grilo’s office said in a statement.

It also stressed that the plan provides for a strengthening of the response in terms of housing response, temporary reception and emergency shelters, and that dedicated municipal jobs are to be created to be offered to homeless people, as well as new responses in health and action to increase the autonomy of these people.

“The municipality of Lisbon maintains the goal of responding to all 361 people living on the streets by the end of 2021, deepening long-term responses beyond this goal”, the statement reads. Grilo is quoted as stating that this investment is unprecedented in Portugal and an “unparalleled response in reducing inequalities”.

At present the Lisbon municipality already finances 80 homes for formerly homeless people under the Housing First programme, having in November approved the financing of 100 more homes, for a total investment of €692,000.

In comments to Lusa news agency previously, Grilo said that the mayor’s budget for next year has already allocated funds for the rental of “45 more homes”.

Housing First is a project promoted by Associação Crescer, a group that works to get people in their own homes, with staff following up by teaching them how to run a home with a view to integrating them fully into society.

Meanwhile, the situation of homeless people in Porto has been highlighted by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, said that in Porto the number of homeless people has decreased, but more people are living in temporary accommodation, stressing that solving the problem remains a national challenge.

“The fact that there are 140 people [living] on the street and a much larger number in temporary accommodation means that we still have 500 people, or more, who are a problem to solve at a time when we are not really in an economic crisis,” de Sousa said, adding that “it is a national challenge.”

The president was speaking after helping out in distributing meals to the homeless near the city’s Bom Sucesso market and next to São Bento train station.

“Here in Porto, what we saw briefly on the street matches what we saw in the numbers of the Porto city council survey and what was said at the meeting” with local officials, he said.

De Sousa noted that there are fewer people on the street - with the figure down to about 140 from about 180 a year ago - but that there are more people in temporary accommodation.

Overall, there is an increase in the absolute number of people with no permanent home, he insisted, citing the information collected at soup kitchens and food banks.

“I would say that here in Porto, at first glance, there are cases of more people having a house, although there are still problems due to the cost of housing, rent and there are perhaps less complicated cases to solve than in Lisbon,” he said.

When asked if the positive numbers from Porto could serve as an example for Lisbon, de Sousa said that the two cities faced different situations, citing for example the fact that there are more people from outside Portugal in the capital, as well as other social factors.