The news is filled with stories covering the drastic rise in homelessness in the UK in recent years, with Shelter reporting in December 2019 that 1 in every 200 people in the UK is now homeless.

Despite this, there is one country who has been working to reverse the trend of rising homelessness.  According to the Guardian, Finland is the only EU country which has falling homelessness rates.  It has set an example for the rest of Europe with an approach to tackling homelessness which flips the traditional method on its head.

Since 2008, Finland has operated with a ‘Housing First’ policy, where people who are long-term homeless are unconditionally provided with permanent housing.  Once in accommodation, people then have access to support services designed to deal with issues such as addiction and mental health problems, which homeless people are more likely to be affected by.  People are also supported into training programmes and finding work, using the home they are given as a foundation to build from.  Finland has seen a reduction in homelessness rates of more than 35% since introducing the policy and rough sleeping in Helsinki (which has half of Finland’s homeless population) has virtually disappeared.

The move away from using emergency shelters and hostels to house homeless people is due to Finland viewing homelessness as a housing problem and a question of human dignity, rather than a social problem that arises from individuals making poor decisions, according to HuffPost.   

Interestingly, analysis has shown that the Finnish state saves approximately €15,000 per year for each homeless person who has been provided with unconditional permanent housing.  This is due to a reduction in these people using emergency care and other social services as well as time spent in the justice system.  Despite the costs involved in building and providing housing, this initiative has proved to be successfully economically as well as socially and could provide an incentive for this model to be replicated around the world.