FINLAND - The City without Homeless

Arno Froese

Emerging from Helsinki’s grandiose central railway station on a bitterly cold evening, it does not take long before you notice something unusual.

There are no rough sleepers and no-one is begging.

The contrast with the UK’s major towns and cities—where rough sleepers curled up in sleeping bags, blankets or tents are a common sight—is striking.

“In my childhood I remember there were hundreds, or even thousands of people sleeping in the parks and forests,” says Helsinki’s deputy mayor Sanna Vesikansa.

“It was visible, but we don’t have it any more. Street homelessness doesn’t exist in Helsinki.”

So how have the Finns managed it?

Since 2007, their government has built homeless policies on the foundations of the “Housing First” principle.

Put simply, it gives rough sleepers or people who become homeless a stable and permanent home of their own as soon as possible.

It then provides them with the help and support they need. That may be supporting someone trying to tackle an addiction, assisting them to learn new skills, or helping them get into training, education or work.

One person who has benefited is Thomas Salmi, who became homeless when he turned 18 and had to leave his orphanage.

For the past two years, Thomas has had an apartment of his own at a large complex run by the Helsinki Deaconess Institute (HDI), one of several organizations providing accommodation for otherwise homeless Finns.

Now 24, he says living at the HDI has helped him turn his life around. He used to drink heavily while living on the streets but now only touches alcohol at the weekend.

Under Housing First, the offer of a home is unconditional. Even if someone is still taking drugs or abusing alcohol they still get to stay in the house or flat, so long as they are interacting with support workers.

They can pay rent through state housing benefit and people can even opt to stay for the rest of their lives., 31 January 2019

Arno's commentary

Finland, a social-capitalist country, is counted among the super-rich nations; yet, homelessness does exist. lists France, at 216.7 per hundred thousand in population, with the most homelessness, followed by the US with 177.1. Under the scale titled “Share of Population Who Have Ever Been Homeless,” from 2003, the UK led with 7.7%; the US was at 6.2%. Finland is listed as the only European country that has successfully reduced homelessness in significant numbers.

While there are multiple reasons for homelessness, one thing they all have in common is the lack of reliable financial income. While that seems almost impossible when compared with the extreme luxury and prosperity the rest of the nation experiences, there is—and apparently always will be—a small group that falls through the lattice.

Here we are reminded of the words of our Lord: “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:11).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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