Introducing the Helsinki Challenge

Calling on European cities & metropolitan areas to follow Helsinki’s example and reduce homelessness

Throughout all major cities in Europe, the number of homeless people has risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Whatever the indicators, whatever the reasons, whatever the policies aiming to provide a home to those who do not have one, this increase has been continuous and will not stop without bold new leadership and renewed ambition.

Is this happening everywhere? No, it is not. In Helsinki, the number of homeless people has decreased and the phenomenon of an escalating homelessness crisis has almost disappeared.

There’s no doubt that we can effectively address the homeless crisis with the right focus and determination. The coronavirus pandemic has provided a chance for many cities, together with central governments, to put words into action ―and many have found new motivation to do so. If it is possible to achieve this in the midst of the worst pandemic in modern times, under the most difficult and unprecedented conditions, there can be no doubt that it is possible to achieve this at any time and in any city. It’s clear from recent experience that when there is the will, ambition and urgency to achieve a better outcome, it is possible to achieve results like those of Helsinki.

Inspired by Helsinki’s example, the French Metropolitan area of Lyon, the City of Lyon and the City of Villeurbanne are determined to achieve results that match Helsinki’s success. To start with, this means being more precise in how we assess housing performance by differentiating between the two indicators for housing insecurity and a lack of housing. By assessing these separately, we can more accurately monitor the outcomes of the actions taken to help people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Our aim is that through collective action, we can reduce the numbers related to each of these two indicators by 50% within 5 years.

We call upon other Cities and Metropolitan areas of Europe to join us, and boldly take on the challenge! 

This implies sharing certain values and principles, outlined in the Homeless Bill of Rights drafted by FEANTSA and Fondation Abbé Pierre―which our communities have already adopted. The right of homeless people to not be homeless anymore, the right to rest, the right to public spaces, the right of access to public services, the right to a postal address, etc.

This also implies an effort to deliver qualitative information, through quantitative data but also by allowing the people concerned to express how they feel about their life conditions, and how they perceive the services they are offered.

Finally, this implies an independent evaluation of the situation and the local policies that are implemented.

Of course, cities alone cannot hope to eradicate homelessness. However, there is much more we can do―much more we must do.

The European Union recently adopted a strategy to fight homelessness under the European Pillar of Social Rights. European cities must join in this fight together, gathering around one ambitious objective, in order to coordinate their efforts, find new ways, challenge the current responses to homelessness and find more sustainable ones.

We call on other European cities like us , who are determined to decrease social suffering and the lack of social housing, to respond to the challenge of Helsinki’s example and join us in reducing homelessness!


Bruno Bernard                          Grégory Doucet               Cédric Van Styvendael
President of the Lyon                Mayor of Lyon                  Mayor of Villeurbanne
Metropolitan Area

For more information, please contact:

Martine Chanal
Policy Officer for Strategy and Innovation at the Housing Department of Grand Lyon La Métropole
(Lyon Metropolitan Authority)



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