In the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, many people have found themselves in a state of marginal survival; homeless persons, users of psychoactive substances, sex workers, refugees, migrants, persons lacking legal documents, former prisoners, people with mental health issues.
In HumanRights360, identifying the need for legal assistance to these group of people, we decided to start street work, in cooperation with Steps, an organization which works on the streets of Athens, on a daily basis, offering food and harm reduction material to homeless people and to persons who use of psychoactive substances.
Our lawyers have joined the Steps’ street work team, offering legal counseling and providing information about their rights to people who are in homelessness, in transitional hosting facilities or in inappropriate, inadequate or precarious housing conditions.
Moreover, we identify the problems that this population faces and support them, promoting and defending their rights, as well as contributing to substantial institutional changes through advocacy actions and public interventions.
On 24 November 2020 the Plenary of the European Parliament adopted a resolution on tackling homelessness in Europe. Inter alia it points out that the homeless persons and other people in precarious housing conditions are at particular risk due to the pandemic COVID-19, while member States are called upon to take targeted measures to protect them. At the same time, on 23 November 2020, the Central Union of Greek Municipalities adopted the FEANSA Homeless Rights Charter, which includes the right to get out of homelessness, the right to have access to decent emergency accommodation and the right to use public space and move freely like other citizens without being criminalized.
Τoday, the need to record the population living in street conditions and its needs, and take care of them, is becoming more and more urgent.
Legal street work actually gives the possibility of approaching the target population where they are, in order to provide the alternative legal services, as far as the place, time and manner.
Applying the peripatetic outreach work approach, namely meeting vulnerable people in places where they live and carry out their activities, in combination with detached outreach work, which concerns meetings at predetermined points of reference, we manage to become accessible and address to a large part of the population living on the streets, providing them legal support:
Through a structured social history form, we keep necessary information, aiming at adequate mapping of the field of action and drawing crucial conclusions. At the same time, through public interventions on issues concerning this population, documentation texts and advocacy actions, we aim at a strategic defense of the rights of the target group, based on our field experience.