“No one gets sober when they are homeless”

Male, 44

“No one gets sober when they are homeless”

Male, 44

This 44-year-old resident even had spend nights outdoors before he got an apartment from the Y-Foundation.

“My housing situation has been quite the roller coaster ride. Every once in a while I meet a woman, move into her place and then stupidly terminate my own lease. And when we’ve eventually broken up, I’ve been the one who’s had to leave.

Over the years, there have been periods when I’ve been living in parks, public toilets, stairwells and paper recycling bins. At times I lived in a car.

A tent to live in

A few years ago when I broke up with my girlfriend, I bought a tent and a sleeping bag and moved into a park located on a hill for the summer. The best spot in Helsinki, my friends called it.

Looking back, the times I spent homeless seem pretty wild.

I took down the tent every morning and went to the nearby boat terminal to shave my beard and brush my teeth. I cooked in a disposable grill. During the day I would go around looking for empty bottles in waste containers to recycle for money.

Sometimes I found things to sell. I often found food too.

I lived in a Salvation Army housing unit for some time. Then the social work field instructor wrote me a letter of recommendation for the Y-Foundation.

Two-room apartment in less than a year

I got my current 46-square-metre two-room apartment in less than a year. At the moment I’m unemployed. I’ve previously worked in restaurants and done social work. I would like to go back to work, but it is difficult due to my back pain. I’m waiting to go into surgery.

Looking back, the times I spent homeless seem pretty wild. At worst, I would leave a bar dressed in a suit and tie and go sleep in a paper recycling bin for the night.

Homelessness does have its charm, however. You’re not tied down to anything. But it’s very demanding. You have to always think about where you’re going to sleep and wash. Violence is a part of life too. I was mugged once, and got badly beaten up.

Tough winters

The toughest was a winter when we lived in a park with friends. We had mattresses under tarps in the bushes and there could be up to six of us sleeping in a public toilet. It had a roof, but it certainly wasn’t warm. I still keep in touch with those friends.

Most of them have got roofs over their heads now. Homelessness also meant daily alcohol use. It was not so much about getting drunk, but a way to pass the time.

When I’ve had an apartment, I’ve spent several months without drinking. You can’t get sober when you’re homeless, no one can.

I enjoy being at home. But I’ve always liked outdoor life. I wouldn’t go camping in the centre of Helsinki anymore, but I’m looking forward to the summer and going hiking in nature.

Now, if I have an argument with my girlfriend I can just go to my own apartment. It’s easy to leave when I have keys of my own in my pocket.”

This story was first published in our book A Home of Your Own (2017). 

Our other pages: m2kodit.fi | housingfirsteurope.eu