Some housing associations do more then just providing a roof above the head. They set up systems that promote the integration of refugees and other immigrants. Six best practices from all over Europe were presented during the event ‘Best practices of inclusiveness, migration and refugee housing’, organised by the network organisations EFL + EurHoNet. They all deserve a follow-up. Here we discuss four of them.
Article by Merel Pit, ISHF team
Pairing up students and refugees
Marthijn Keijzer introduced us to the housing project Startblok Elzenhagen: 550 dwellings for Dutch students and permit holders between the 18-27 years in Amsterdam Noord. The project is an initiative by the Dutch housing associations Eigenhaard en De Key and the municipality of Amsterdam. “The whole project is about integration by participation. Every permit holder has a Dutch student as a buddy. And groups of 10-20 tenants share a living room and a kitchen”, Keijzer explains. To join the project students have to motivate why they want to live with permit holders. They also must point out what role they want to play in the community, for example, as a group manager or a handyman.
Internships for second-generation immigrants
Copenhagen housing association BO-VEST focuses on the vulnerable youngsters from disadvantaged residential areas. Trine Sander explains that BO-VEST gets them into contact with contractors for an internship or apprenticeship. Not by helping them to send in a written application, but to make a video. Sander: “This way, the contractors get a good picture of the person instead of judging on for hand. Many of these youngsters are second-generation immigrants who don’t get many application invitations because of their name.” To illustrate this, see the video of Alper who is looking for a mason apprenticeship.
Soccer as a starting point to integration
The city of Linköping, Sweden, had to deal with groups of young immigrants wandered the streets at night. Mari Hultgren of housing association Stångåstaden explains that they started to open the gym on Saturdays between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. for a free game of night soccer. “The crime rate sank 48% during these ours. After one year the older boys decided to start soccer club”, Hultgren says. “Every week these guys train over 50 children. And as they climbed up in the higher divisions of the soccer competition, they become role models for the younger kids. Some of them even got a job from us, since they show reliability and willingness to work.
Volunteering tenants help refugees
In the city of Helsingborg, Sweden, refugees were placed in socially and economically prosperous residential areas. The original tenants were not so happy. They started different negative social media champagnes. “During open house meetings Dragana Curovic of housing association Helsingborgshem asked the tenants: “what do you prefer? Happy or unhappy people in your neighbourhood?“ Slowly the opinion changed and people wanted to do something for the refugees. “In the end a system of continuous participation evolved. We only helped to structure the volunteer work.” If you are curious that the volunteers came up with, please check out the video.