“In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling – without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness.”
In the existing service system housing services are mainly those categorized as staircase models. In these models individuals should graduate through a social rehabilitation process in order to earn their own housing. Because of both the lack of individual capabilities, knowledge or motivation and the internal inconsistencies of the service system people fall from these stairs over and over again, and often even directly to the street. Some critics say that the present system at its worst maintains long-term homelessness. The staircase model works for those motivated, but how could the housing be ensured for those who are unwilling or uncapable to engage themselves with the services?
…or Housing First?
HF-principle starts from an opposite point of view. According to the principle instead of being a goal, housing is considered as a first step, a basis and a precondition for the start and for the success of social recovery process. In the HF-model individual’s housing is secured with supportive treatment services. Needed social recovery processes can be started after housing retention is reached. HF-model has evidence-based results from the U.S. In Finland some housing first services have been put into place in recent years. These units have successfully housed long-term homeless people with severe mental and substance abuse problems who have been living in the streets for a long time in inhumane living conditions.
“Since the 1980s, Finnish governments had been trying to reduce homelessness. Short-term shelters were built. However, long-term homeless people were still left out. There were too few emergency shelters and many affected people did not manage to get out of homelessness: They couldn’t find jobs – without a housing address. And without any job, they couldn’t find a flat. It was a vicious circle. Furthermore, they had problems applying for social benefits. All in all, homeless people found themselves trapped.”
Action Plan for Preventing Homelessnes in Finland 2016-2019