Utrecht, The Netherlands

Bed, Bath and Bread

Gemeente Utrecht

April 23, 2018

A human rights approach to public services protects the homeless and helps build safe, inclusive cities

The provision of shelter to destitute irregular migrants in the Dutch city of Utrecht led to a heated national debate on the city’s right to provide ‘Bed, Bath and Bread’. However, the impact of street homelessness including the
vulnerability of families and young people on the street had to be addressed.
Working through local NGOs, the City of Utrecht provides shelter and access to medical care, including funds to support dental and pharmacare. Safe spaces and trusted community partners make it easier to address underlying issues of irregular status, such as how to secure a legal residence permit, or assistance with returning home. Services also support mediation with national immigration authorities. In their first ten years, Utrecht found solutions in 94% of cases in the form of a residence permit, voluntary return or restoration of the right to care within the federal
asylum system.
Utrecht became one of Europe’s first ‘Human Rights City’ in 2013 when it adopted the universal standard in honour of the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht. That ethos informs the city’s position on providing shelter in face of government opposition. However, the pragmatic need to tackle street homelessness and the social problems to which it gives rise is the driving force. Today Utrecht and other Dutch municipalities are in
constructive talks with the national government to find a joint solution to homelessness, whatever the resident status.

Full Good Idea Coming soon!

Making it Work for You:

  • City governments have a role to play to fill the gaps in services for their residents. Especially when the needs of residents conflict with another level of government, city leaders have the infrastructure and means to challenge those conflicts in a way that local organizations and residents may not be able to. The outcome can create better outcomes for all residents.
  • Working with local service providers is essential to provide the right services to clients who trust local service providers.
  • Providing one form of support community service, such as housing, can act as a “gateway service” to identifying and providing additional services people with precarious immigration status may face.

Themes: Live, Housing

For this Good Idea contact:

Jan Braat, Maatschappelijke Ontwikkeling
Meedoen naar Vermogen
Stadsplateau 1
Gemeent eUtrecht, Netherlands,
3512 AZ