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Finland Has Radically Reduced Homelessness: "It's A Miracle". America Is Not Even Close

Finland Has Radically Reduced Homelessness: "It's A Miracle". America Is Not Even Close

The country has been seeing a downward trend in homelessness, thanks to its revolutionary Housing First policy.

Representative cover image: Getty Images/ Creative/ Oliver Elsner / EyeEm

Finland is making Europe proud with a radical new housing policy that may just solve the problem of homelessness—the country has now been seeing a drop by over a whopping 35%. There's still a lot of work that needs to be done, but this doesn't mean that we don't appreciate the work that has been put in by Finland, reports Guardian.



 

 

The policy that helped solve Finland's housing situation was devised over a decade ago by four key individuals: a social scientist, a doctor, a politician, and a bishop. Back then, the final report was called the Nimi Ovessa, which translates to "Your Name on the Door". Now, it is known as the Housing First principle. Juha Kaakinen, the group’s secretary and first program leader, who now runs the Y-Foundation which develops supported and affordable housing, stated, "It was clear to everyone the old system wasn’t working; we needed radical change.



 

 

"We had to get rid of the night shelters and short-term hostels we still had back then. They had a very long history in Finland, and everyone could see they were not getting people out of homelessness. We decided to reverse the assumptions." Previously, homelessness was tackled through a "staircase" model. This model expected the homeless to move through various stages of housing as they got their lives back on track. An apartment was the final reward. Finland turned this model on its head.



 

 

"We decided to make the housing unconditional," Kaakinen said. "To say, look, you don’t need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems." Hence, with state, municipal, and NGO support, several housing units were purchased by the government, new units were built, and short-term units (such as shelters) were converted to permanent housing units.



 

 

Housing First initially aimed at creating 2,500 new homes; it created 3,500. The program was launched in 2008, and ever since, Finland has seen a massive drop in homelessness. Reports show that homelessness has decreased by over 35 percent. The policy was especially effective in Helsinki, where homelessness was largely concentrated. Helsinki’s mayor, Jan Vapaavuor, stated, "We have reduced long-term homelessness by a remarkable amount. We must do more – better support, better prevention, better dialogue with residents: people really support this policy, but not everyone wants a unit in their neighborhood... But yes, we can be very proud."

Meanwhile, the United States isn't doing too well when it comes to homelessness. Though it is on a downward trend, a shocking 553,000 people were homeless for at least one night in 2018. Moreover, homelessness is concentrated in five states: California (24%), New York (17%), Florida (6%), Texas (5%) and Washington (4%). And like everything else in White America, homelessness is racialized too. Almost half of all those who are homeless are Black.

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