Housing First Research Digest: Volume 8

Housing Social Work in Finland 

Welcome to the 8th volume of the Housing First Research Digest!

This volume focuses on Housing First in Finland, through the lens of housing social work.


Housing First in Finland is based on the human right to housing and an understanding that homelessness is complex and multi-faceted. The principles of Finnish Housing First include an individual flat for each person, a permanent rental contract congruent with Finnish law, and adequate support based on the choice and autonomy of the tenant. Flats are provided in supportive housing units or in scattered housing, which can be either social (affordable) housing or a private market rental. In this context, a supportive housing unit is where people who experienced homelessness and may have higher support needs, live in a communal housing setting with available support on site. Scattered housing entails individual flats “scattered” throughout apartment complexes with floating support services available to come to the person’s flat or at the local social and health care system. The support is based on the comprehensive social benefits and health system of Finland.

Housing social work is homelessness prevention work with people affected by homelessness. The work has been developed in the context of Finnish long-term homelessness prevention programs since 2007. The aim has been to eradicate and prevent homelessness, secure the stability of housing, and improve the economic and psychosocial well-being of homeless people and people who have experienced homelessness. One of the most important roles of housing social work has been to foster the sense of home for residents and support them in achieving their housing and home needs and goals. The basic principles of the work include flexibility, empathy, interaction, and presence intervention.

The following articles focus on different aspects of housing social work in Finland. Two of the articles were written or co-authored by Dr. Riitta Granfelt, who has developed the concept and principles of housing social work in her research. The texts highlight the principles of housing social work above and the different contexts and approaches to work. The third article is a more detailed analysis of housing social work as interaction, highlighting, among other things, the negotiations between professionals and residents about the content of the work.


Article 1: Housing Social Work Riitta Granfelt (in Finnish)

This is a guide on housing social work by professor Riitta Granfelt, which clarifies what housing social work is and demonstrates how it functions in daily interactions between social workers and residents. The guide is based on Granfelt’s comprehensive academic articles on housing social work written in Finnish.  The work proposes main concepts, grounded in Housing First, and examples of how client-worker relationships to residents is at the heart of housing social work. The paper explores the different spaces where housing social work takes places and how it contributes to economic well-being, the feeling of home, overcoming inequality, and meaningful social relationships. Two projects of the Y-Foundation are also explored, the One of Us project on combatting loneliness and the Uuras work program, as a way to exhibit how housing social work interactions are integrated into these projects.

Article 2: Women on the Border between Home and Homelessness: Analysing Worker-Client Relationship Riitta Granfelt and Saija Turunen

This article explores housing social work from the perspective of social workers and women who have exited homelessness. Now with permanent flats of their own, these women live in either supportive housing units or in scattered housing. The stories of social workers interviewed in the article evidence their frustration with a social welfare system that does not provide enough support to women exiting homelessness. The perspective of the social workers is complemented by interviews with the women they work with in permanent housing. Their stories positively describe the influence of a good client-worker relationship, especially during vulnerable situations, to help them achieve their housing goals and to make their house more of a home. The article helps illustrate the importance of the housing social work done by social workers to try to help each woman build a place they call home, through interpersonal relationships and direction to the correct supportive services.


Article 3: Home as a risk environment: Negotiating the boundaries of homes and social relationships in services for people using illicit drugs Johanna Ranta, Jenni-Mari Räsänen, Suvi Raitakari, Kirsi Juhila

This article provides a clear example of how housing social work supports the creation of boundaries for a new home, especially in relation to illicit drugs. Using mobile ethnography, the authors illustrate how housing social workers support the negotiation of boundaries for the new tenants by helping them identity who from their social relationships they would like to welcome into their home, and who will perhaps create a risk of losing their home. The article illustrates how multifaceted housing social work is in that it can include helping set healthy boundaries, helping tenants clean their homes for guests, and ultimately encouraging a ‘sense of home.’

Thank you for reading!

This volume of the Research Digest is written by Spyridoula Fotinis, Master’s student in social and public policy, University of Helsinki, Finland and Riikka Perälä, Postdoctoral Researcher, Y-Foundation, Finland.

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