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Housing First policy in Finland provides long-term housing & stability to homeless populations

Finland
The Atlas Community Team

Cost

Initial:
270 Million EUR

Project Status

Operational since 2008

At a Glance

Utilizing its Housing First concept, Finland has been able to provide its homeless population with small apartments and counseling without preconditions. As a result, the country reversed conventional aid, emphasized the importance of stable living conditions, and saw a sharp decrease in its homeless population.

Problem Addressed

In 2008, Finland's homeless population was prevalent across the country, and particularly in the city's center. With low temperatures sitting at around 17°F homeless people faced harsh weather conditions when living on the streets.

Since the 1980s, Finnish local governments have been working to decrease homelessness, often with short-term shelters. However, this left out the final goal: long-term housing and stability. With too few emergency shelters, many of those affected found themselves stuck in the perpetual cycle of homelessness. Without a housing address, they couldn't apply for jobs, and without a job, how were they supposed to afford housing? As many ran into issues applying for social benefits, they were left without the resources necessary to find real stability.

Finland used/is using the "Housing First" concept to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

In 2008, the Finnish government collaborated with NGO Y-Generation to create a new policy for homelessness: the "Housing First" concept.

The Y-Foundation is a local leader in the eradication of homelessness that promotes well-being and sustainable lifestyles among their tenants. The foundation has accumulated 18,000 apartments that they've bought and later renovated, some of which were converted from former emergency shelters. The foundation receives discounted loans from the state to buy properties, and the social workers that work with the homeless population are paid by the state. Apartments bought on the private market are funded through the Finnish Lottery. With government assistance, the foundation now operates in 57 cities and municipalities across Finland, representing the fourth largest landlord in Finland.

The one to two bedroom renovated apartments offer a long-term housing solution for the homeless population. Homeless people become tenants with a tenancy agreement, which requires them to pay rent and operating costs. The rent is then used to pay off government loans. Social workers, who operate within the residential buildings, provide assistance on social benefit applications and other financial issues.

The Housing First policy reverses conventional homeless aid, emphasizing the importance of having stable living conditions before looking for a job and working on psychological problems. Now homeless people can get an apartment without any preconditions. Now that they are in a more secure position and have social worker support, it is easier for them to find a job and take care of their physical and mental health.

Outcomes

  1. 4 out of 5 homeless individuals are able to keep their apartment for the long-term, allowing them to lead a more stable life.
  2. 4,600 homes have been provided in 10 years, and by 2017, there was enough shelter for all members of the population to sleep indoors.
  3. The state now spends 15,000 Euros less per homeless person each year, as a result of less emergency situations that follow assaults, injuries, and breakdowns.

Something Unique

Finland now represents the only country in the EU where the number of homeless people is declining.

Who Should Consider?

Local or state governments looking to provide a stable, long-term solution for homelessness.

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