Homelessness has decreased but not enough – study to explore means to tackle this
The Ministry of the Environment has appointed Juha Kaakinen to examine ways to achieve the objective to eradicate homelessness. According to the Government Programme, homelessness should be halved during this Government term and abolished by 2027. Homelessness has decreased but not enough to reach the target.
Finland is the only country in Europe that has managed to reverse the trend in homelessness. According to a survey conducted by the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland ARA in 2021, there were 3,948 homeless people living alone. Homelessness has decreased during the time the Cooperation Programme to Halve Homelessness has been implemented, which can be considered an important achievement. COVID-19 pandemic was feared to increase the numbers of evictions, but this was not the case. During 2020 homelessness decreased by 5.6% and during 2021 by 9%. During the previous programme on homelessness the decrease was 2–5.1%.
“Having a home is a fundamental right, and it is quite untenable that this is not realised in a prosperous welfare state like Finland. We need reasonably priced apartments, sufficient social security and services that support housing. Even if the trend is in the right direction, it is clear that we have not yet done enough,” says Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Maria Ohisalo.
The proposal of the Rapporteur to be completed by the end of January 2023 explores concrete measures that are needed to eradicate homelessness and the role of different stakeholders in this work. Previously, rapporteur Juha Kaakinen served as CEO of Y-Foundation and Programme Director of the programme to reduce long-term homelessness.
“The particular strengths of Finland in reducing homelessness include the solid political consensus on the importance of the matter and cooperation among a broad spectrum of actors. With these strengths, it is quite possible to eradicate homelessness permanently, despite the current challenges,” Kaakinen says.
Financial problems increase risk of losing one’s home
Especially in the largest urban areas, where the majority of the homeless also live, housing prices cause problems especially for low-income individuals and special groups. The nature of homelessness has changed so that even more often it is associated with financial problems and even larger numbers of people are at risk.
Housing advice has proven an effective means to avoid losing one’s home due to financial reasons. The legislative proposal of the Ministry of the Environment would improve access to housing advice, and this year the municipalities have already hired 23 new housing advisors.
“Housing advice can help people with their life management capabilities. It can prevent a wretched circle where financial problems lead to homelessness, which in turn aggravates the financial problems. With the additional funding granted by the State we can make sure that municipalities will continue to offer housing advice free of charge,” Ohisalo says.
The reasons behind homelessness are manifold, which means that social services and specialised housing services are also needed. Healthcare and social welfare services have an important role in making sure that a person who has suffered from homelessness and has found a home is also able to keep it.
An assessment of the Cooperation Programme to Halve Homelessness is currently under way, but we already know that municipalities, towns and cities are now more strongly committed to taking action.
“Municipalities have good multidisciplinary expertise accumulated over a long period of time, and we must make sure that this is preserved now that the responsibility for healthcare and social welfare services moves to the new wellbeing services counties. The problem cannot be solved without close cooperation among different sectors, NGOs and the State,” minister Ohisalo stresses.
The aim of the Government’s housing policy is to eradicate homelessness by 2027. The Government Programme sets the objective of paying particular attention to improving access to housing advice and proactive prevention of homelessness. Of the groups of people, a particular focus will be on young people and immigrants.
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