Finland is the only country in Europe where homelessness is in decline. The reason: the country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling – without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life.
This rapid review of the international evidence was designed to look for lessons in developing effective homelessness prevention from other countries. The review found three essentials for effective homelessness prevention. 1. Prevention must be part of an integrated homelessness strategy. 2.
The Finns have turned the traditional approach to homelessness on its head. There are a number of reasons as to why someone ends up homeless. Most homelessness policies work on the premise that the homeless person has to sort those problems out first before they can get permanent accommodation.
The 2018 National Homelessness Conference, presenting the theme ‘Ending homelessness together’, delivered a wealth of evidence and information on ways to understand, reduce and alleviate homelessness. Over 800 delegates and more than 80 speakers participated across two very full days, exploring the underlying drivers of homelessness and the differing strategies on how best to overcome it.
The integrated Finnish National Homelessness Strategy is often seen as the envy of the economically developed world. Challenges remain and progress is not always even, but Finland is approaching a point at which recurrent and long-term homelessness will be nearly eradicated and experience of any form of homelessness will become uncommon.
A pilot program in Finland sees a small group of young people live together with seniors in a Helsinki home, in return for spending a number of hours a week with their elderly neighbours. The project aims to prevent homelessness in young people by helping them with secure and affordable housing, while at the same time increasing social interactions of the senior residents.
Eoin O'Sullivan, editor of the European Journal of Homelessness, says that Finland had investigated the issue of homelessness and decided "it's not that complex". "They said 'the first thing we need to deal with people's issues is housing', so they built a lot of housing for homeless people,"
The project aims to prevent homelessness in young people by helping them with secure and affordable housing, while at the same time increasing social interactions of the senior residents. The co-housing arrangement is modelled after a Dutch example where students live in a nursing home and spend time socialising with the residents.
The interaction between research and policy development has played an important role in the transformation of homelessness policies and services over the last decade. This article will focus on the Nordic countries, where there has been close interaction between research and policy development in the formation of national strategies and programmes.
The housing first model is quite simple: when people are homeless, you give them housing first – a stable home, rather than progressing them through several levels of temporary and transitional accommodation.
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