Cohousing and case management for unaccompanied young adult refugees in Antwerp

The purpose of CURANT was to facilitate the integration of unaccompanied teenage and young adult refugees by means of two strategies: comprehensive individual coaching, and support from native young people with whom they cohabited. It was implemented in Antwerp (Belgium) from November 2016 to October 2019.

Fact Sheet

  • Original name: Cohousing and case management for unaccompanied young adult refugees in Antwer (CURANT).

  • Geographical scope: Antwerp (Belgium).

  • Promoting organisation: Antwerp City Council, heading a consortium of public bodies and NGOs.

  • Target groups: Unaccompanied teenage and young adult refugees.

  • Launch year: 2016.

  • End year: 2019.

1. Context

On turning 18, unaccompanied young adult refugees lose the state guardianship, the housing and the training programmes they had benefited from until then. However, often they continue to experience factors of vulnerability, such as traumas and lack of skills and of access to social networks, and have unrealistic expectations. They also have difficulties accessing housing, as do native young people.

2. Goals

The CURANT programme targeted, on the one hand, young people aged 17 to 21 with refugee status or subsidiary protection, who had arrived in Belgium without their family; and on the other, native young people aged 20 to 28. The aim was to facilitate the integration of the first group through comprehensive coaching and through cohabitation with people from the second group, who gave ongoing support to the first group. 

3. Intervention

The programme was based on an explicit theory of change (Mahieu and Ravn, 2017). Once the participants were selected, they were put into pairs and awarded one of the 25 available housing units, which were grouped into four different modes, where they were required to stay for 12 months, extendable to 18. Participation in the programme had economic incentives: the rent was affordable and the cohousing arrangement did not affect taxation or the social benefits applicable in other circumstances. 

In addition to housing, the following support was provided: 

  • The young adult refugees benefited from comprehensive individual coaching from a social worker who, following the case management model, offered not only training but also guidance with regard to community resources and psychological therapy. 

  • The native young adults received training to optimise cohabitation and strengthen their support task. 

The programme was funded by the European Regional Development Fund or ERDF (80%) and the organising consortium (20%). 

4. Results

Two mid-term evaluatio and one final evaluation were carried out, including interviews with technical staff and participants, together with observations and a survey (Mahieu, Van Raemdonck and Clycq, 2019).

A total of 81 young adult refugees and 77 natives took part in the programme. At the end of the programme, the first group’s Dutch language skills were either “better”or “a lot better” (76%), as was their confidence to speak it (82%), their understanding of the language (76%), their ability to find their way through the administration (82%), their wellbeing (84%), how often they use Dutch (85%), their social skills (67%), their understanding of local habits (67%), their knowledge of local society (67%) and the management of their finances (52%).