RADAR -Register Data Analysis for Addressing Homelessness and Reducing it

RADAR is a joint project by Y-Säätiö and University of Turku, Department of Social Research, funded by The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA).


The main goal of RADAR is to use register data to improve the understanding of homelessness. This knowledge would be used to inform practical approaches and policy-making processes, ultimately working towards the goal of eradicating homelessness in Finland. In a first phase, we will focus on gaining new insights into the circumstances of people experiencing homelessness and the role of services and benefits in facilitating successful transitions out of homelessness and into stable housing. We will also evaluate the cost-effectiveness of Housing First, the main approach used to tackle homelessness in Finland. The research findings will then be used to inform Finnish housing policy and improve the practices of government-subsidized rental housing providers.

Introducing RADAR

Learn about RADAR, a research project focused on addressing homelessness in Finland.

An effective response to homelessness requires a deep understanding of its causes and the role of services and benefits in facilitating successful transitions out of homelessness and into stable housing. Achieving this understanding requires the adoption of a comprehensive research approach, encompassing various domains over extended time periods. Specifically, we need to investigate the specific risk factors individuals face prior to experiencing homelessness, their utilization (or lack thereof) of services and benefits, and how their needs and patterns of utilization change once they are housed.

The implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016, along with the subsequent establishment of the Finnish Social and Health Data Permit Authority (Findata) in 2019, has facilitated the merging of national and regional population, health, and social registers on a large scale. This significant development has created unprecedented opportunities for studying homelessness by analyzing extensive individual-level data from multiple registers spanning long periods of time.

By leveraging the power of register data, this project aims to generate knowledge necessary to effectively address homelessness. This knowledge will play a crucial role in coordinating the efforts of various stakeholders, including government-subsidized housing providers, social services, and the healthcare and benefit sectors. Furthermore, it will inform the planning of actions and the allocation of resources that transcend service boundaries and government budgets.

The project consists of two distinct phases. In the first phase, our goal is to generate knowledge concerning the circumstances surrounding homelessness and the impact of services, benefits, and Housing First programs on reducing homelessness. In the second phase, we will utilize these insights to inform practical approaches through the Housing First Network developers involving all homelessness operators in Finland, from social and health professionals to government-subsidized housing providers.

The knowledge production phase entails two distinct research components:

  1. Evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of Housing First Programs (Helsinki and Espoo). Finland’s homelessness strategy is centered around the Housing First approach, which combines housing and support tailored to each individual’s needs. The aim of this research component is to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of Housing First programs in Helsinki and Espoo over a six-year period (2016-2021) using a sample of over 1000 clients of social services. By analyzing clients’ utilization of social and health services, as well as welfare benefits, the study aims to provide evidence of the economic impact of Housing First on government budgets. Y-Säätiö is responsible for this research component.
  2. The housing, service and benefit pathways of the homeless in Turku. This research component aims to provide a retrospective description of housing pathways, as well as the use of social and health services and benefits, over long periods of time. The study benefits from data on the use of local health and social services covering over a decade during 2010s and 2020s. The target group in Turku consists of approximately 400 people identified as homeless according to the ARA homeless count in November 2022. They will be compared on a one-to-one basis with a comparison group of non-homeless adult social work clients. Additionally, the analysis evaluates whether individuals identified as homeless according to the ARA homelessness count were also identified as homeless in other register data over time (and viceversa). The University of Turku is responsible for this research component.

The findings are intended to support the actors involved in combating homelessness in Finland in several ways. First, by understanding the interrelationship between affordable housing, services and benefits, the study can inform actions to prevent and reduce homelessness. The second level is conceptual. We want to contribute to a common understanding of the causes of homelessness, the risk factors that make some people more likely to experience homelessness, and how services, benefits, and the availability of affordable housing are needed to end homelessness. Thirdly, we aim to provide evidence on the economic impact of reducing homelessness to optimize resource allocation and advocate for central government funding with solid evidence. Finally, the expertise we will gain on public registers could be used to develop new ways of measuring and monitoring homelessness at the national and local levels.

Preparations for both research components began in 2022 with the submission of two different data permit applications to Findata. Findata will make the datasets available to us in 2024. Once the preliminary results are available, we will organize two roundtables with the Housing First Network developers to discuss the results and potential implications.

Throughout all phases of the project, we will rely on the guidance of several experts in the field of homelessness who will be part of the steering group for the project.

The results of the two studies will be disseminated through social media and presented at academic and policy conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. The final report of the project will be available by the end of 2026.

The project is a cooperation between Y-Säätiö and the University of Turku, Department of Social Research.

The research project RADAR is co-funded by The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA).

The part of the project located in Turku is also co-funded by the Turku Urban Research Programme through Turun yliopiston Asunnottomuuden polut Turun seudulla – murroksista kohti sosiaalista, terveydellistä, taloudellista ja teknologista kestävyyttä [Homelessness pathways in Turku region – from organizational changes towards social, medical, economic and technological sustainability] (ASKE) 2024-2025, a joint project by University of Turku, Department of Social Research, Turku School of Economics and Satakunta School of Applied Sciences

The project is a cooperation between Y-Säätiö and the University of Turku, Department of Social Research.

Y-Säätiö is leading the research component on evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the Housing First programmes (Helsinki and Espoo).

Contact: Elisabetta Leni: elisabetta.leni@ysaatio.fi

The Department of Social Sciences of the University of Turku is leading the research component on housing, services and benefits pathways for homeless people in Turku.

Contact: Veera Niemi; veeevi@utu.fi