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Finish solution to cut homelessness: Give them homes. The result is spectacular

Staff Writer | April 12, 2018
Finland is now the only EU country where homelessness is declining rather than increasing.
Finland homes
Europe   Finland only EU country to reduce homelessness
The improvement is partially due to a 2008 campaign aiming to eliminate homelessness.

About a decade ago a project called Housing First started operations in Finland.

The project works to reduce homelessness across the country and over the past ten years the group oversaw the conversion of homeless shelters into low-cost rental apartments and also assisted a number of Finnish municipalities plan affordable housing solutions.

Not only was the project successful, it helped the country become the only EU state which has drastically cut the number of homeless people.

Thirty years ago there were about 18,000 homeless people in Finland - but today there are about 6,500.

Between 2009-2016 Finland saw its homeless population drop by some 18 percent, according to the European homeless network Feantsa's report on homelessness.

During the same period, most EU countries have seen homelessness increase, often exponentially.

England saw the number of homeless skyrocket by more than 150 percent between the years of 2009-2016, according to Feantsa figures.

One November night in Brussels, Belgium 2016 some 3,300 homeless people were recorded. Compared to a similar headcount carried out in Belgium's capital in 2008, that is the equivalent to a 96 percent increase, Feantsa reports.

The way Finland's Housing First began approaching homelessness in 2008 is vastly different to that of most other EU countries, but at its core is a rather simple approach.

Before the campaign, affordable housing authorities generally demanded that homeless housing seekers pull up themselves by their bootstraps and address personal problems before they were granted a place to live.

In contrast, Housing First's chief principle is that everyone has a right to a home, even those burdened with difficult issues.

Once their living situations are sorted, people appear better able to seek out help and support in solving other problems in life than before they had a home.