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Finnish Government's Plan to Reduce Long Term Homelessness

According to a housing market report by the Housing Fund of Finland, in November 2006 there were approximately 7,400 homeless individuals and around 300 homeless families in the country. Previous homelessness reduction programmes (2001-2005) had succeeded in cutting the number of individual homeless people from around 10,000 (in. 2001) to some 7,500 (in 2006). However, it has not been possible to reduce the number of long-term homeless people. The latest information also suggests that the number of homeless individuals has grown in 2007 in some of the country’s largest cities - Helsinki, Espoo, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Kuopio and Joensuu. There are also signs of an increase in long-term homelessness.

Homelessness is closely associated with the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and Helsinki in particular. In November 2007 there were some 4,000 homeless individuals in the Metropolitan Area, which is more than half the number in the country as a whole. There were also 190 homeless families in total in the same area. Statistics show that in Helsinki itself there were 3,110 homeless individuals and 140 homeless families. The number of long-term homeless people in the country is estimated at around 2,500, of whom 2,000 (80 %) live in the Metropolitan Area and 1,500 (60%) in Helsinki itself.

Long-term homeless people constitute a group of homeless persons whose homelessness is classed as prolonged or chronic, or threatens to be that way because conventional housing solutions tend to fail with this group and there is an inadequate supply of solutions which meet individual needs. The risk of prolonged homelessness grows significantly if homelessness is associated with one or more of the following: uncontrolled substance abuse, active drug use, mental health problems, neurological damage, a tendency towards violence, crime, release from prison, and debt.

Main content of the programme

The programme to reduce long-term homelessness targets just some homeless people. Assessed on the basis of social, health and financial circumstances, this is the hard core of homelessness. The programme to reduce long-term homelessness focuses on the 10 biggest urban growth centres, where also most of the homeless are to be found. The main priority, however, is the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and especially Helsinki itself, where long-term homelessness is concentrated.

The programme is structured around the ‘housing first’ principle. Solutions to social and health problems cannot be a condition for organising accommodation: on the contrary, accommodation is a requirement which also allows other problems of people who have been homeless to be solved. Having somewhere to live makes it possible to strengthen life management skills and is conducive to purposeful activity.

Because of all the reasons there are for long-term homelessness, if it is to be cut there need to be simultaneous measures at different levels, i.e. universal housing and social policy measures, the prevention of homelessness and targeted action to reduce long-term homelessness. The programme’s objectives are:

  • To halve long-term homelessness by 2011.
  • More effective measures to prevent homelessness.