Homelessness decreased again

  • 13.2.2024
  • News

Homelessness decreased again in Finland, according to a survey published by Ara. There were 3429 single homeless people in November 2023, 257 fewer than in the previous year. “The survey confirms that the eradication of homelessness in Finland can be successful if we invest in it,” says Teija Ojankoski, CEO of Y-Säätiö.

Ara’s latest survey shows that the downward trend in homelessness is continuing. The last time homelessness rose was in the early 2010s.

The downward trend has been largely driven by Helsinki in recent years and this is also reflected in the latest figures. Helsinki managed to reduce the number of single homeless people by 157. The number of homeless families in Helsinki is 33, a decrease of 75%. The long-term homeless were also successfully housed: There are 118 fewer long-term homeless people in Helsinki than in the previous year.

“Homelessness problems are typically concentrated in large cities – Helsinki’s success in reducing homelessness serves as a good example, both in Finland and internationally, of how ambitious targets and determined measures can yield results.” Teija Ojankoski, CEO of Y-Säätiö, comments on the recent statistics

Helsinki aims to eradicate homelessness by 2025.

Regional variations in homelessness trends

Homelessness is not decreasing steadily in Finland. There are significant differences between municipalities, according to the survey.

The largest increase in homelessness is in Espoo. With this growth, Espoo has the highest homelessness rate in relation to the population. The homelessness rate also increased in Turku. In Turku, homelessness has risen for two consecutive years.

Apart from Helsinki, homelessness decreased in the largest cities only in Tampere (-33), Lahti (-2) and Pori (-9). Nearly half of the homeless are in the Helsinki metropolitan area and nearly four out of five in the ten largest cities.

“The shift of homelessness services to well-being services areas is a major transformation that requires responsiveness and adaptability from all actors involved in reducing homelessness. As the cuts to housing and people’s livelihoods progress over the year, it is clear that the level of difficulty in ending homelessness will increase.

Efforts to tackle homelessness need to be made in well-being services areas, cities and nationally. Fortunately, the recently launched homelessness programme brings together the key players. Now is the right time to deepen cooperation and support the sharing of information and good practice”, Ojankoski continues.

Towards the end of long-term homelessness

Homeless people are not a homogeneous group and homelessness often develops differently in different groups. The proportion of immigrants among single homeless people rose from well over 18% to 24%. Youth homelessness, on the other hand, decreased. The proportion of all single homeless people aged under 25 fell from 22% to 15%.

Long-term homelessness also fell from last year. There are 115 fewer long-term homeless people than last year: 1018 in total. The government programme aims to eradicate long-term homelessness through a programme to this end, on whose steering group Y-Säätiö is represented.

“Long-term homelessness can be eradicated in Finland. The tools are there and the know-how is there. It is safe to say that the ball is in the policymakers’ court.

To succeed, homelessness must be tackled as a broad issue. Long-term homelessness is not isolated from other forms of homelessness. In addition to developing services for the long-term homeless, it is important to continue to focus on prevention and to take into account the different risk factors of homelessness in a comprehensive way”, said Mrs Ojankoski.

The vast majority of homeless people, around 62%, stay temporarily with relatives or acquaintances. Other forms of homelessness are clearly smaller: those staying in institutional units (12%), in dormitories or accommodation facilities (12%) and outside, in stairwells, first shelters etc. (14%).

“Not much is known in Finland about people staying with acquaintances or relatives, the so-called hidden homeless or couch surfers. In Denmark, for example, there are better statistics on support needs and it was found that almost all of the hidden homeless have either mental health or substance abuse problems.

To eradicate homelessness, we need to take into account all groups experiencing homelessness and their life situations,” says Ojankoski.