Will homelessness work continue to reach the homeless?

  • 18.1.2024
  • Vieraskynä

The context for homelessness work has changed in recent years with changes in welfare areas and support systems. According to a recent report, mobile multi-professional work addresses weaknesses in the service system and offers opportunities to better reach homeless people, writes Maria Degerman, Special Adviser at Housing First Network Developers.

The original aim of the welfare reform was not to centralise services, but to ensure equal access to them across the country. However, in practice, services for the homeless, for example, seem to be concentrated in the larger municipalities of the wellbeing services counties. There may be a risk that people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in smaller localities will be left without services.

Housing benefit reforms will also drive people to seek more affordable housing in the future. The cheapest housing is rarely found in the area with the widest range of services. We may therefore end up with a situation where people who need services live in a different area from where they are provided. If this happens, we may lose not only information about the service needs of homeless people, but also information about the number of homeless people.

Finnish studies, reports and recommendations on homelessness work have repeatedly highlighted the role of mobile multi-professional work in ending homelessness. The key task of mobile multi-professional homelessness work is to bring homelessness work to where the clients are. Reaching people outside the service system and getting them into services is central to mobile multi-professional homelessness work. The importance of mobile multi-professional homelessness work seems to be growing with the emergence of wellbeing services counties to ensure that homelessness work continues to reach the homeless.

Mobile multidisciplinary work as a solution in a changing society

Housing First Network Developers, coordinated by Y-Säätiö, brought together different actors in mobile multi-professional homelessness work, together with researchers Annalisa Sannino and Yrjö Engeström from the RESET team at the University of Tampere. In a series of workshops with them and in the final report, it was found that within mobile multi-professional homelessness work, ways of working have been developed to help bridge gaps in the service system and strengthen integration. Mobile multi-professional homelessness work simultaneously about supporting individual clients and enhancing the integration of the service network.

Mobile multi-professional homelessness work is able to tailor services to the individual needs of the client and provide them flexibly as the need for services changes for one reason or another. Multidisciplinarity enables different expertise and skills to be drawn from the same team, thereby enabling the client to be guided and referred to the services they need, without interruption between services.

With the forthcoming housing benefit reforms, the risk of homelessness will affect a wider range of people. To ensure that homelessness work continues to reach the homeless, our services must be outreach, flexible, rapid and client-focused. Mobile multi-professional homelessness work is often able to respond to the multiple service needs of homeless people or those at risk of homelessness, which are difficult to respond to or even identify through agency-based work. It is therefore of paramount importance that the mobile multi-professional homelessness approach and teams are established as part of the service system in wellbeing services counties.