695 vieras katselu

Photo: Darina Rodionova

Preventing homelessness is less expensive than dealing with its consequences

The Helsinki Deaconess Institute (HDI) aims to focus attention on hidden homelessness and particularly homelessness among youth. Over 80 per cent of our homeless people sleep on other people’s sofas, and most of them are young. HDI points out that the paths that lead to homelessness need to be recognised as early as possible, and that preventing homelessness is less expensive than having to cope with its consequences.

HDI and the youth service Vamos organise activities for young people in Espoo, Helsinki, Kuopio, Lahti, and Oulu. Vamos helps get young people oriented to training or employment. In the case of homeless young people, Vamos first helps them with getting a place to live.

, 23, got his new supported flat with Vamos’ help. He reckons he slept on about 50 sofas before he was able to move to his new home.

“The youth are not the ones who you see in doorways. And they don’t use night shelters. They seek out their friends and acquaintances and crash at their places”, says Piia Aho, who works as a mentor with Vamos Espoo. One reason, she thinks, is that they feel ashamed. They’re afraid of the stigma.

Read Jaakko’s story and more about youth homelessness: A home of my own via 50 sofas

Statements emphasise homeless people’s rights to autonomy and freedom of choice

The UN International Day for the Elimination of Poverty, 17 October, was marked in Finland by the annual Night of the Homeless. Two key statements were issued on the issue of homelessness, both of which have been signed by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute Foundation and the HDI’s Hoiva, its health and social service provider.

The statement of the Night of the Homeless organisers in Helsinki draws attention to the right to autonomy. The organisers express concern over how services and the right to autonomy for homeless people will fare under the reform of health, social services and regional government. They stress in their statement that the opportunity for people to choose their municipality, neighbourhood, and housing should be the same for everyone. Everyone should also be entitled to a home of their own and to receive the support necessary to be able to live independently. Homeless people are not always accorded these rights.

A second statement draws attention to the problem of unscrupulous housing brokers and that people in vulnerable situations easily fall victim to and get exploited by them. The signatories to the statement are concerned about the discrimination in the market for rented housing and its impact particularly on vulnerable immigrants and the realisation of their rights of autonomy and freedom of choice. The statement calls for more stringent monitoring by the authorities so that unscrupulous actors are not able to operate in the housing market.

October 2017