• Finland marks the Night of the Homeless on Wednesday.


    Finland marks the Night of the Homeless on Wednesday.


    A variety of events draw attention and provide temporary help for the more than 7,000 people living without a permanent address in Finland.


    File photo. Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle.

    On Wednesday evening, the Night of the Homeless is being marked with many different events to draw attention to and help those without a home.

    For example, in the northern city of Oulu, Rotuaari Square features afternoon and evening events with services intended for those without a home. Organisers are offering services like blood pressure checks and haircuts from a volunteer barber. There will also be a range of snacks on offer like hot coffee, Finnish pulla sweetbread, and sausages, as well as warm clothes for those who need them, free-of-charge.

    The invisible homeless.

    It’s estimated that there are more than 7,000 homeless people in Finland of all ages. Many homeless spend nights at friends' homes or with relatives, a population which has become known as the 'invisible homeless.'

    The number of people without a permanent residence in Finland has decreased each year during the last five years, but in a few cities such as Turku and Oulu, the number of those without dwellings has slightly increased this year.

    At the end of last year there were 7,100 homeless people in Finland, of whom 1,400 were long-term homeless. According to Ara, the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland, there are about 500 homeless families in Finland.

    Additional challenges

    Professor of social and health policy Juho Saari from the University of Tampere says that completely eradicating homelessness is challenging, as there are so many reasons why people end up on the streets.

    ”Previously, the homeless were often middle-aged men with substance abuse problems and life skills management issues. Now we have young people, immigrants, and youth who are no longer under child protection services,” he says.

    According to Saari, being homeless isolates people from society and weakens their self-esteem. 

    ”Building a life without a home can be incredibly difficult. And even then each step is a big one towards building a new life. But many have managed to do it,” says Saari.

    For example, Finland's 'Housing First' approach starts with the assumption that the first support for the homeless should be the provision of housing. Only after that has been addressed, other issues like substance abuse or mental health problems can be dealt with, he says.



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