The Lisboa/Norway Diversity Learning Experience September 2019

A two day ‘Roller Coaster Ride’ in the City of Lisboa, Portugal, September 22nd, September 25th, 2019.

I have this heart to heart connection with Norway, Portugal and a lot of it’s people. Apart from the overwhelming nature in these countries, I know some wonderful and awesome people, co-workers, programs and their cities.

Husbanken asked me to organize a Learning Experience to Lisboa, Portugal. They had a special interest in the transformation of policy and treatment for people with a dependency on drugs. Also Housing First had their profound interest.

Øystein Djupedal, Regiondirektør bij Husbanken kicked off this Learning Experience with a beautiful presentation on the history of Lissabon and Portugal. A true story teller.

We had some pretty awesome other speakers in just two days. They lifted our energy, knowledge and passion for the beautiful work we and they do.

On the 1st day João Castel-Branco Goulão presented on the drastic change of the treatment for people with a drug dependency in Portugal. ‘Decriminalization of drug use’ is one of the answers. It’s that simple.


I apologize for the poor quality of this image, but the results of their change in treatment and attitude towards people with drug dependency are staggering and mind blowing. It was a perfect kick-off of our Study Tour.

In the afternoon all 30 participants had the opportunity to visit the homes of participants in this Housing First Program. It’s always a great pleasure to see the smiling faces of people once they come back from these home visits. They have witnessed what it means to people who are formerly homeless to have their own apartment, their own safe place.

I have visited a lot of Housing First Programs in the World and it’s silly to rate them with all kinds of qualifications, but I have to say, there is a reason why I keep coming back to this city: it’s one of the best Housing First Teams in Europe. Their Lisboa Model is overwhelming, balanced and well designed and since my last visit, years ago, so many improvements have been made.

This city, not only on a team and organization level, but also on a political level, have made some wonderful decisions and changes. It’s a combined effort of all people and organizations involved. Ending Homelessness and a balanced offer in case treatment of drug dependency is not a ‘hollow statement’ in this city and country. They have found a way to collaborate, which to my opinion is profound and unique in the World.

On the second day Jose Ornelas, Full Professor ISPA-IU Lisboa, Portugal and Housing First team member gave us a presentation never to forget. Apart from the fact that his presentations are always energetic and uplifting: the numbers and statistics that he presents on, are staggeringly good and hopeful. It’s such a pleasure to be with this man and his team.


“People whom we house through Housing First are not lonely. They just lack a Community and that is what our Lissabon Team and Lisboa Model works on, every minute of the day. Housing people scattered through the city is the clever and humane thing to do. Diversity is the answer for people and for this world.”



In the evening my friends from Norway had created the opportunity to visit the Residence of the Norwegian Embassy in Lisboa. We met the ambassador and his wife. Her introduction during this visit was a goose bump experience. She matches powerful female politicians very easy. Her introduction and speech was caring, loving and with so much awareness of what our world needs to create more equality among citizens.

And their residence? Yes, that was mind blowing too! Due to privacy reasons, I will only post this second picture of this amazing visit.

The Residence

In the morning hours of the second day of this Experience we were able to talk to several Housing First participants. Again lots of proof and reasons why Housing First is so successful all over the world. It makes you want to do the right thing.

The last meeting of this wonderful trip was with NPISA.

A great presentation on how this city and it’s organizations work together and collaborate! All the organizations that work in this city have workers in this building and are housed in the same building. With this they keep their ‘lines’ very short and so acting and intervening in the lives of homeless individuals becomes very easy and a piece of cake. I have never witnessed a combined effort like this in any city in the world. It was the perfect last presentation of this wholesome Learning Experience.

I want to complement my group of friends from these different communes all over Norway. Their focus and dedication during this trip was contagious. I just did not want to go home. This trip may have lasted for another week. Thank you Siv, Bjørn, Roy and Åse! To practice perfect (Mental) Health Care is not about money. It’s a state of mind, a mind set, an attitude towards the world and people. Norway and Portugal have what it takes.

Siv, my co-guide and new friend

Last but not least, I want to thank Ines and Teresa of the Lisboa Housing First Team! Without them this experience would not have been as satisfying as it was. I am a fortunate guy, to know people like them. Housing First is a Global Family. That is the message they send out to homeless people all over the World. It is what people need who have been excluded from our society. Community and Diversity are the answers to Ending Homelessness. It’s that simple.

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