“International statistics on homelessness are grim. What is needed now is more courage to try different housing solutions and the ability to think outside the box.” – Juha Kahila
I’ve had the chance to learn about homelessness work around the world. It has been a pleasure to see that the Housing First model has become more well known every year. Unfortunately, however, the full potential of the model is not recognised in many countries. Too often Housing First is still a pilot or an additional component of basic housing services. Systemic change to embed the Housing First model is still in its infancy. In order to eradicate homelessness, Housing First should be an integral part of the core of services.
Short-term solutions are costly
Around the world, the problems regarding homelessness are often tackled with short-term solutions, such as more emergency shelters. A lot of money is spent on services that only provide help for a short time. At worst, these short-term solutions only exacerbate and prolong the problem. And more money is spent every year. Instead of short-term solutions, homelessness work should focus primarily on housing solutions. Preventive services also have an important role to play.
The Housing First model requires courage and daring
Realising the full potential of the Housing First model requires courage to experiment with different housing solutions and to approach the problem from different angles. In Finland, housing units based on the Housing First model have proven to be effective solutions. In Italy and England, for example, the concept of shared housing has been successfully tested.
More individual housing is certainly needed, but it is problematic to base homelessness work on this alone. In many countries, the waiting time to get a home is excessive. Long waiting times are not a problem for professionals, but people experiencing homelessness do not have time to wait.
It takes work, success and the right kind of talk
Mainstreaming the Housing First model will require work and a number of successes. On a global scale, Housing First is still an ideology of a small number of people.
However, it has also been positive to see the successes of homelessness work based on the Housing First model. An example of such a positive development can be found in Denmark, where a new homelessness programme has been launched which is innovative in many ways.
In the past year I have also noticed a change in the way homelessness is talked about. It is encouraging to see that many countries have the encourage to talk not only about reducing homelessness, but also about eliminating homelessness altogether.
So there is talk and enthusiasm from around the world. All that remains now is to translate this into action.
About the author:
Juha Kahila is Head of International Affairs at Y-Säätiö (Y-Foundation)
This blog was originally published on 6.2.2023 at https://asuntoensin.fi/vieraskyna-more-courage-is-needed-to-upscale-housing-first-worldwide/. It is republished here with permission from the author.