Combating homelessness

Nine European cities have come together to exchange best practices for helping homeless citizens, to study and adapt the phenomenal experience of Finland and, as a result, to develop a strategy to solve one of Europe's pressing problems that is homelessness.
The project financed by the European Regional Development Fund involves two Belgian cities Gent and Liege, Braga (Portugal), Glasgow (Great Britain), Gothenburg (Sweden), Naples (Italy), Timisoara (Romania), Thessaloniki (Greece) and Toulouse (France).

The administrations of these cities and the specialists involved focus on the people living in the streets, in temporary shelters, at their friends' (in cars and other inappropriate places), as well as former prisoners not having their own housing.
Thanks to the Housing First Program:
  • 12,000 people have received permanent housing in Finland since 1987;
  • 9,600 EUR per homeless person are annually saved by Finland on services before permanent housing provision;
  • 15,000 EUR per homeless person are annually saved by Finland on the costs of temporary accommodation.
The project participants are guided by the Housing First social service program for the homeless, which has been successfully implemented in Finland since the second half of the 1980s. Thanks to this program, over 30 years, the number of homeless people in the country has been decreased three times, from 18 to 6 thous. people. No other country in Europe has ever achieved such impressive results.

According to the traditional staircase model of provision, a homeless person is moved from one shelter/community to another, and if their personal problems, such as alcohol and drug addiction, or unemployment, are resolved, they will ultimately be provided with own housing. However, unlike Housing First in Finland, the implementation of staircase programs did not bring Europe any closer to solving the problem of homelessness.
The main difference between Housing First and traditional programs is that it does not end, but begins when a homeless person is provided with housing. The calculations initially made by Finnish specialists paid off. When someone has a home, it is much easier for them to cope with personal problems and integrate into society. In addition, after having received housing, people sharply reduce the consumption of social services (ambulance, hospitals, prisons), so the state can even save on expenses in this area.
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