On a recent trip to London, I was shocked by the increased numbers of people living on the streets. No matter what political “ism” prevails, this is a symptom of failure, not success. Something is awful wrong with the system – whatever system it be – if large numbers of human beings are condemned to live in bin bags and doorways in the middle of winter in a supposedly wealthy capital of a major city. But what is causing the problem exactly? And what can be done about it?
To be honest, I haven’t a clue but I guess we could start by injecting more humanity and more creative ideas into the culture.
Those nice people in Finland seem to have a better idea than most as to how to help fellow human beings in trouble.
Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need
In 2008 you could see tent villages and huts standing between trees in the parks of Helsinki. Homeless people had built makeshift homes in the middle of Finland’s capital city. They were exposed to harsh weather conditions.
Since the 1980s, Finnish governments had been trying to reduce homelessness. Short-term shelters were built. However, long-term homeless people were still left out. There were too few emergency shelters and many affected people did not manage to get out of homelessness: They couldn’t find jobs – without a housing address. And without any job, they couldn’t find a flat. It was a vicious circle. Furthermore, they had problems applying for social benefits. All in all, homeless people found themselves trapped.
But in 2008 the Finnish government introduced a new policy for the homeless: It started implementing the “Housing First” concept. Since then the number of people affected has fallen sharply.
Finland has set itself a target: Nobody should have to live on the streets – every citizen should have a residence.
And the country is successful: It is the only EU-country where the number of homeless people is declining.
How everyone is given residence in Finland
It is NGOs such as the “Y-Foundation” that provide housing for people in need. They take care of the construction themselves, buy flats on the private housing market and renovate existing flats. The apartments have one to two rooms. In addition to that, former emergency shelters have been converted into apartments in order to offer long-term housing.
“It was clear to everyone that the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change,” says Juha Kaakinen, Director of the Y-Foundation.
Homeless people turn into tenants with a tenancy agreement. They also have to pay rent and operating costs. Social workers, who have offices in the residential buildings, help with financial issues such as applications for social benefits.
Juha Kaakinen is head of the Y-Foundation. The NGO receives discounted loans from the state to buy housing. Additionally, social workers caring for the homeless and future tenants are paid by the state. The Finnish lottery, on the other hand, supports the NGO when it buys apartments on the private housing market. The Y-Foundation also receives regular loans from banks. The NGO later uses the rental income to repay the loans.
“We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions.” (Juha Kaakinen, Director of the Y-Foundation)
That’s how the “Housing First” concept works
The policy applied in Finland is called “HousingFirst”. It reverses conventional homeless aid. More commonly, those affected are expected to look for a job and free themselves from their psychological problems or addictions. Only then they get help in finding accommodation.
“Housing First”, on the other hand, reverses the path: Homeless people get a flat – without any preconditions. Social workers help them with applications for social benefits and are available for counselling in general. In such a new, secure situation, it is easier for those affected to find a job and take care of their physical and mental health.
The result is impressive: 4 out of 5 homeless people will be able to keep their flat for a long time with “Housing First” and lead a more stable life.
In the last 10 years, the “Housing First” programme provided 4,600 homes in Finland. In 2017 there were still about 1,900 people living on the streets – but there were enough places for them in emergency shelters so that they at least didn’t have to sleep outside anymore.
Providing people with apartments is cheaper than leaving them on the street
Creating housing for people costs money. In the past 10 years, 270 million euros were spent on the construction, purchase and renovation of housing as part of the “Housing First” programme. However, Juha Kaakinen points out, this is far less than the cost of homelessness itself. Because when people are in emergency situations, emergencies are more frequent: Assaults, injuries, breakdowns. The police, health care and justice systems are more often called upon to step in – and this also costs money.
In comparison, “Housing First” is cheaper than accepting homelessness: Now, the state spends 15,000 euros less per year per homeless person than before.
No miracle cure – but a high success rate
With 4 out of 5 people keeping their flats, “Housing First” is effective in the long run. In 20 percent of the cases, people move out because they prefer to stay with friends or relatives – or because they don’t manage to pay the rent. But even in this case they are not dropped. They can apply again for an apartment and are supported again if they wish.
Of course, there is no guarantee for success. Especially homeless women are more difficult to reach: They conceal their emergency situation more often: They live on the streets less frequently and rather stay with friends or acquaintances.
In case of new publication, please cite this source/author: Kontrast.at/Kathrin Glösel
The above article is from SCOOP.ME. Visit SCOOP.ME for more great articles.
The Liberty Beacon Project is now expanding at a near exponential rate, and for this we are grateful and excited! But we must also be practical. For 7 years we have not asked for any donations, and have built this project with our own funds as we grew. We are now experiencing ever increasing growing pains due to the large number of websites and projects we represent. So we have just installed donation buttons on our websites and ask that you consider this when you visit them. Nothing is too small. We thank you for all your support and your considerations … (TLB)
Comment Policy: As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, or personal/abusive attacks on other users. This also applies to trolling, the use of more than one alias, or just intentional mischief. Enforcement of this policy is at the discretion of this websites administrators. Repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without prior warning.
Disclaimer: TLB websites contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, health, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.
Disclaimer: The information and opinions shared are for informational purposes only including, but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material are not intended as medical advice or instruction. Nothing mentioned is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.