For the first time in Europe, all EU Member States have now formally committed to the goal of ending homelessness by 2030 (Lisbon Declaration, 2021) through the European Platform to combat homelessness (EPOCH), implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan Principle 19 on Housing and Assistance to the Homeless. While commitment at the national level is critical to implementing homelessness eradication measures, the path to this goal must involve all levels of government, including local authorities. This is why European cities have been called upon to sign and commit to the Homeless Bill of Rights, and practises experimented at the local level, such as the UIA 5 Bridges in Nantes, can be an important source of learning for cities.
The 5 Bridges project launched in UIA under the first call in 2017 and officially completed in 2020 aims at breaking the circle of social and spatial polarisation, targeting the city’s homeless and socially excluded population. The city of Nantes is struggling to meet the needs of homeless people living on the streets and is struggling to provide social housing for 30,000 people on the waiting list. With 5 Bridges, the municipality wanted to show that solutions to provide multifunctional support to homelessness can be of high quality, can be implemented in the heart of the city, namely in the urban island of Nantes, and involve the local community, favouring social mix and the creation of a “quartier pour tous” (neighbourhood for all). The idea came about through the work of the non-governmental organisation Les Eaux Vives, which was dissatisfied with the inefficiencies, gaps, and geographic dispersion of available services for the homeless in the city and was willing to bring together in a single place its activities, which until then had been spread over five sites (2,500 people welcomed per year, 80 volunteers, and 80 employees).
With firm and steady support of the local government under the guidance of Mayor Johanna Rolland (Socialist Party), a public investment of almost 22 million euros was offered: the Nantes Metropole offered 372,000 euros, the City of Nantes 300,000 euros, the Department 300,000 euros, the Region 1 million euros, and European funds 5 million euros). The contracting authority for the operation, CDC Habitat, provided the majority of the funds, namely 14 million euro, and 5 million with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through UIA, additional funding from other source not reported. The 5 Bridges features three buildings where several activities can coexist: general public housing, accommodation and services for the homeless, an urban farm, a solidarity market, a café, and a garden. A village square has been laid out in the middle of all these activities, covered by sails. It provides comprehensive and tailored services to unhoused and vulnerable people, such as: one-stop shops that provide housing and health-related services; support to enter the job market while proposing and testing new jobs; and a participatory approach to foster social integration and empowerment (including a neighbourhood restaurant, an urban farm, a solidarity shop, temporary and social housing, and low-threshold care). The 5 Bridges, also named the Solidarity Village, became active in spring 2021, entailing the construction of 9,575 m2 for accommodation, 2,565 m2 of equipment, 957 m2 for public activities, 716 m2 of offices, and 504 m2 of shops.The partnership for the implementation includes the Ville de Nantes, Nantes Metropole; Association Les Eaux Vives (LEV) Emmaüs NGO; CDC Habitat (a builder and housing manager; CDC Habitat is a 100% subsidiary of the National Caisse des Dépôts); Société d’Aménagement de la Metropole Ouest Atlantique (SAMOA), a local public development company; Quai des marchandises; and Les Cuisinieres (lately added to the NGO La Sauge).
A wide range of activities have taken place in the 5 Bridges project since the publication of the latest’ UIA journal. This journal, officially the 4th one, will briefly account for the overall project with the latest achievements, which lead to the state of the art reported here in July 2022. As a result, this journal offers a state of the art following the project's completion as well as a transversal analysis of the project with lessons learned and suggestions, which could help the project's partners and other cities considering taking a similar path reflect on their work.
This journal is based on the UIA journals written by 5Bridges expert Frederik Spinnewijn, who closely followed the implementation phase of the project. To complete this journal, research in grey literature and local newspaper articles, interviews with key stakeholders, and a site visit were conducted in July 2022. Even though the main focus of this account is not on the 7 UIA challenges, as in the previous journals written for this project, these challenges have been considered and, wherever appropriate, embedded to ease learning and potentially transferability of this practise. www.5ponts-nantes.eu