Report: Homelessness can be eradicated by 2027 with close cooperation
The report commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment explores the trends in homelessness and means by which homelessness can be eradicated. Rapporteur Juha Kaakinen urges to continue the work in line with the Housing First principle and to further develop this so that support is readily available and serves homelessness that may be due to varying reasons in diverse ways. A key focus should be on groups that need services and support the most.
“Today, there is a broad consensus on the need to eradicate homelessness in Finland, but some time ago this was considered a utopian target. Now we just have to take concrete steps to achieve it. We need a national programme to eradicate homelessness by 2027. It is important that all political parties will commit to this programme and to ensuring adequate resources for it,” Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Maria Ohisalo says.
Finland has managed to reverse the trend in homelessness
Finland is the only country in Europe where homelessness is decreasing. Besides Finland, there have been positive developments in Norway and, more recently, in Denmark and Scotland.
According to statistics of the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA), in 2008–2022 the number of homeless people living alone decreased by 54% and the number of people experiencing long-term homelessness by 68%.
In November there were 3,686 homeless people living alone and 1,133 people experiencing long-term homelessness. From 2021 the number of homeless people living alone decreased by 262 and the number of people experiencing long-term homelessness by 185. What is quite worrying is that since 2021 homelessness has increased among young people under 25 years of age.
The target set in the Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government is to halve the number of homeless people by 2023 and eradicate homelessness by 2027. In 2018, which is used as the reference year, the number of homeless people living alone was 4,882 and the number of homeless families was 159. According to the report, the eradication of homelessness by 2027 is still a realistic target even if the target to halve the number of homeless people has not yet been met.
“The long-term effort has produced good results and the large group of professionals who are committed to the target and to working together builds faith. A strong culture of collaboration and political will have made it possible to reduce homelessness and to see its eradication as a realistic target,” Rapporteur Juha Kaakinen says. In practice, eradication of homelessness in Finland means that there are no people living outdoors, and no one is discharged from any institution without an offer of appropriate housing.
Need for multi-professional, low-threshold support
The report suggests that the work in line with the Housing First principle should continue: access to housing does not require changing one’s lifestyles or getting healthy. According to the report, the methodology should be developed in a way that strengthens the understanding of the customers’ situation, respectful encounters and a rehabilitating approach to the work. A particular focus must be on reaching and helping people who are in the most vulnerable position or have been marginalised.
The group of experts heard during the process considered strong participation of the State as very important. Eradicating homelessness should be a common cause. It requires new kinds of partnerships and collaborative efforts, where the wellbeing services counties and municipalities are in a key position. Services must be available locally even if the responsibility for organising them rests with the broader shoulders of the wellbeing services counties.
Attention should be paid to decentralised, mobile and specialised services that help people experiencing long-term homelessness, in particular. We must also ensure that there will be no new people faced with homelessness, even if growing numbers of people are at risk of losing their apartment for economic reasons. This is why multi-professional housing advice and prevention of evictions are important.
The report proposes a national programme that would strengthen coordination and funding. The key issues to be developed raised in the report are permanent housing solutions and round-the-clock housing service that aim to minimise temporary solutions. More research and better utilisation of empty apartments are also needed.
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