As the cold weather and snow rages on in the UK, spare a thought for the people out on the streets who don’t have a home where they can go to escape the elements.
In January, new figures were released that claim that the number of homeless people on Britain’s streets has reached a new record high of 4,751 rough sleepers – more than double in 2010 and a 73 percent increase over the last three years.
These figures from the National Audit Office are disputed by some homeless charities who suggest that the true numbers are much higher.
Homeless charity Crisis has warned that the actual figure could be more like 8,000 on the streets with 9,000 more sleeping in places like cars and tents.
One place that the UK could look for a solution could be Finland.
Last year a report published by EU homelessness organisation FEANTSA that found Finland to be the only EU country not in the middle of a homelessness crisis.
Finland has actually been decreasing numbers of homeless people and this comes from a bold approach that they have taken with regards to getting people off the streets.
It’s called Housing First and it is a complete reversal of the traditional approach to homelessness.
People become homeless for very different and complex reasons – loss of a job, break-up of a family, drugs or alcohol misuse, or something completely different.
Whilst many countries focus on sorting these problems out before the homeless person can become eligible for permanent accommodation, Finland work the opposite way.
They provide permanent housing first, as well as individually designed support to sort out the issues that have led to the person becoming homeless.
It sounds simple – and it is – but it’s effective. They argue that having a permanent home makes solving health and social problems a lot easier.
The people in the system pay rent and are given housing benefits. If they earn enough they will pay towards the help they get, but the rest is paid for by the local government authority.
It’s not cheap – they’ve had to buy new housing, build new housing, and convert existing buildings, but it is worth it in the end. They have now converted all homeless shelters into accommodation.
Juha Kaakinen, the CEO of the Y-Foundation – an organisation that provides flats for Housing First in Finland – said: “All this costs money, but there is ample evidence from many countries that shows it is always more cost-effective to aim to end homelessness instead of simply trying to manage it.
“Investment in ending homelessness always pays back, to say nothing of the human and ethical reasons.”
Obviously the UK is vastly different to Finland but could this be considered in other countries?