Finland has drastically reduced the number of homeless people thanks to their “Housing First” concept. Namely, all the homeless people are given a small apartment and counselling without any preconditions so that they could get back on their feet and get their life back as soon as possible. This makes Finland the only country in Europe where there is decline in homelessness.
Finnish government has been trying to solve the problem with homelessness since the 1980s. They started building short-term shelters but that was not a solution since long-term homeless people were still left out. They couldn’t get their life together because they were unable to find jobs without having a house address. And without a job they couldn’t find a place to live. It was a vicious cycle for them and they couldn’t find a solution.
Fortunately, in 2008, the Finnish government begun implementing the “Housing First” concept which provides housing for homeless people. It is a NGO named “Y-Foundation” that buys apartments on the private housing market using discounted loans from the states and renovates existing ones. The flats have one to two rooms. Moreover, they get help from social workers which are paid by the state.
“It was clear to everyone that the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change,” says Juha Kaakinen, Director of the Y-Foundation. “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.”
First they get an apartment without any preconditions. Then the social workers help them to get social benefits and are open for counselling. When they find themselves in this new secure place, then it is easier for them to look for a job and find one as well as take care of their emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing.
Finland figured out that it is cheaper to provide people with apartments and get them to pay rent than leave them on the street because when people have nowhere to go there are more emergencies- breakdowns, injuries, assaults – situations where the justice systems, the health care, and the police has to intervene which also costs money.
What do you think of Finland’s way to reduce homelessness?