Give homes to homeless - it works in Finland
The number of rough sleepers in the UK has increased by 134% since 2010, yet decreased by 35% over a similar period in Finland. What explains the discrepancy between two rich countries, both with the capacity and the resources to get people off the streets? The answer, according to Harry Quilter-Pinner, director of strategy at SCT, a homelessness and addictions charity in east London, is that the UK provides services and treatment only after a person has ceased to become homeless, while the Finnish government emphasises that housing must come first in order for treatment to work. In short, Finland has largely solved the problem of homelessness by giving homes to the homeless.
“As Juha Kaakinen, who has led much of the work on ‘housing first’ in Finland, explained to me when I met him in Helsinki, “this takes housing as a basic human right” rather than being conditional on engaging in services for addictions or mental health.
This is fundamentally different to our model in the UK, where stable accommodation is only provided as a “reward” for engaging in treatment services. The problem with this is obvious if you stop and think about it: how do we expect people to address complex personal problems while exposed to the chaos of life on the streets?”
Kaakinnen was a recent guest on Ed Miliband’s podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful, and the interview with him can be accessed here.