In 2007, Finland adopted a “Housing First” policy. This approach, building on efforts Finland has adopted since the 1980s, uses “housing as a starting point rather than an end goal“. In other words: providing housing is the absolute first step, and then other support and services can be in addition to that.
Housing First contrasts with the traditional ‘Staircase Model’, which requires homeless people to abstain from drugs and alcohol and get their lives back on track before they are eligible for housing. Housing First is structured to encourage a permanent exit from homelessness and, according to the data, the objective seems to be being achieved, with research showing that it generally ends homelessness for at least 8/10 people.
Providing a house immediately for homeless people becomes a great incentive for social integration, allows a safe environment that increases the effectiveness of treatment and, most importantly, returns autonomy to the individual.
That said, it’s not all roses in the state of Finland. Although there are almost no rough sleepers on the city streets, it has not entirely eradicated homelessness, with roughly 4,600 individuals and 264 families without a roof over their head. Critics argue that a Housing First approach is expensive and takes a long time to bear fruit (Finland began its approach in the 1980s), and in the short-term can divert resources from other programmes. Some also caution that Housing First should not be seen as a silver bullet, and can only work as one part of the solution.
What do our readers think? We had comments sent in from Julia, João, and Chris on homelessness and housing in Europe. To get a response, we put them to Leïla Chaibi, a French MEP who is Vice-Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and sits with The Left group in the European Parliament. You can see her responses in the video at the top of this post.
Should we give every homeless person a home? Can we learn from our Scandinavian neighbours and decrease homelessness across Europe by employing the Housing First model? Could we someday be able to eradicate homelessness altogether? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!