(L-R) Nadine Conrardy, Director of Social Action and Health; Michel Simois, Director General of the Luxembourg Red Cross; Myriam Jacoby, coordinator for the Ukraine programmes; Credit: Otilia Dragan/Chronicle.lu

The Luxembourg Red Cross held a press conference on Wednesday 15 May 2024 to present its 2023 activity report, focusing especially on housing and its activities in Ukraine.

Michel Simois, Director General of the Luxembourg Red Cross, emphasised the importance of providing housing for the most vulnerable among people in Luxembourg. While the Red Cross has not normally been active in this endeavour, the acute need for access to habitation prompted them to get involved. He noted the the three pillars of their housing strategy activities are:

- a desire to work together more closely with other actors such as the Fonds du Logement (housing fund) and Luxembourg municipalities, to give Red Cross beneficiaires better access to housing options available;

- support possibilities for cohabitation in order to enable people to find cheaper accommodation options, as well as look into temporary home building (tiny houses, modular buildings, etc.) on terrains donated to the Red Cross;

- the Red Cross building its own housing on terrains donated from inheritances, a large-scale project that will require support from Luxembourg's Ministry of Housing, among other resources.

Michel Simois emphasised that housing is specifically a pressing issue for youth, refugees and the elderly, people who have struggled with drug use and are “looking for a way out” as well as people recently having left an institution, sex work or another situation that leaves them vulnerable and at risk of homelessness.

Myriam Jacoby, coordinator for the Ukraine programmes, next presented the situation and help provided in Ukraine. She noted that the Red Cross has been active in Ukraine for over 30 years. Since the beginning of the war, 6.7 million people from Ukraine have sought refuge abroad while 3.7 million were internally displaced and in need of housing. The Luxembourg Red Cross is primarily active in Donatsk and Dnipro - overall, she noted they have distributed 30,000 hygiene kits and 90,000 food kits; they have helped repair 23 hospitals, sent medical supplies to 32 hospitals and provided 22 electricity generators, especially for local hospitals (because of Russian attacks on the electricity infrastructure). Concerning housing in Ukraine, the Red Cross repaired 2,000 houses, she added, noting that this translates to about 6,000 people getting help - about the amount of people living in a Luxembourg municipality such as Kehlen or Niederanven.

In Luxembourg, the Red Cross has been providing, since last year, a housing support unit (Cellule Logement Encadrement Solidaire - CLES). This is a service offering guaranteed payment of rent, social support for tenants, regular monitoring and coverage of any repair costs and other measures that are implemented to ensure that the most disadvantaged people are not altogether left out of the housing market.

Nadine Conrardy, Director of Social Action and Health, explained that “homeowners who were offering housing for free were given the possibility to move into the social rental management system in 2023, thereby receiving a compensatory indemnity and having more clearly defined rights and obligations, while being able to provide help to vulnerable individuals”. As of 31 December 2023, 95 of 291 housing units managed by CLES were inhabited by Ukrainian families.

The CLES service has been able to house around 1,000 people, with 300 different housing units being managed, with external support from various social offices and Luxembourg's Ministry of Housing, among other partners.

This year, the Aline Mayrisch residence in Vianden was opened, able to house up to 108 people. This intergenerational structure houses multiple groups, aiming to create community support through the proximity to others across various generations.

Other projects have already been launched across the country, in Berg, Bergem, Kautenbach, Enscherange, Esch-sur-Alzette, Esch-sur-Sure, Junglinster, Luxembourg-Ville, Niederkorn, Redange-sur-Attert, Schoos, Wasserbilling and Weicherdange. A minimum of 170 new homes will be built for over 560 people.

Furthermore, a substantial bequest from Robert Schuman, who passed away last year, the "Fonds Schuman", has been dedicated to these housing projects to speed up their pace.