A report published by EU housing organisation Feantsa found last week, that every EU country is experiencing a homelessness crisis – every country except for Finland.
So what has this country done differently? Well, homeless people are provided with permanent housing as opposed to having to go through various channels where there is no guarantee of finding accommodation.
Since 2008, Finland has implemented a national homelessness strategy based on the Housing First model. The Guardian spoke to Juha Kaakinen, Chief Executive of the Y-foundation, an organisation that offers low cost rental accommodation to the homeless. She explained that Housing First is all about ending homelessness instead of simply managing it. This involves offering permanent housing to homeless people and providing individually tailored support instead of temporary accommodation solutions.
This is an idea being considered in the UK by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. The reason the strategy has been so effective in Finland is because of the dedicated cooperation between the state, NGOs and municipalities. The country has virtually eliminated homelessness and successfully housed many long-term rough sleepers, making it the only European country to have reduced its’ homeless population in recent years.
Kaakinen told The Guardian that the state has allocated extra funding for flats and services, which has been an incentive for the various municipalities to implement the Housing First strategy. The tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, the newly housed can contribute to the cost of services, but the municipalities cover the rest.
According to Kaakinen, this means of ending homelessness can be employed in other countries, despite the varying housing conditions across the EU. The key is avoiding temporary solutions and looking to provide permanent accommodation for rough sleepers.
Is this something that Sajid Javid can push to implement in the UK? Could this be the answer to our homelessness crisis?