Reducing long-term homelessness 2012–2015
According to the Programme of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen’s Government, the Government's housing policy is aimed at ensuring a socially and regionally stable and balanced housing market, eradicating long-term homelessness, and developing the standard of living. A housing policy action plan will be drawn up by the end of January 2012, on the basis of the guidelines established in the Government Programme. The action plan will also take account of the programme to reduce long-term homelessness. Implementing the homelessness reduction programme will contribute to the prevention of segregation.
The national programme to reduce long-term homelessness will be continued in accordance with the Government Programme, and letters of intent will be signed with city councils for the period 2012–2015. Funding for the required investments and support services will be ensured in cooperation with the Housing Finance and Development Centre, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Finnish Slot Machine Association RAY and city councils.
As outlined in the Government Programme, in order to improve the housing conditions of groups with special needs, the adequacy of investment grants will be ensured, retaining their current level at a minimum. Preventing social exclusion and homelessness among young people will be made a core objective.
In addition, the National Development Programme for Social Welfare and Health Care (KASTE II) will be launched as outlined in the Government Programme, including a programme to reduce long-term homelessness.
Objectives of the programme
A person is defined as subject to long-term homelessness when homeless for a prolonged period, or threatened with prolonged homelessness which, for social or health reasons, lasts over one year, or if the person has experienced recurring homelessness within the last three years. Long-term homelessness was first surveyed through ARA’s survey for municipalities in 2008. While the municipalities’ interpretations of long-term homelessness have varied, in recent years such definitions have become more established, classifying approximately 40% of homeless people as long-term homeless.
During the implementation of the national programme to reduce long-term homelessness in 2008–2011, it was noted that the long-term homeless can be divided in two categories: the long-term homeless whose only problem is a lack of housing, and those who require housing services and support. Targeted measures under the reduction programme were specifically aimed at the long-term homeless who need housing support and services. However, in order to eradicate long-term homelessness, measures are required covering all those suffering from long-term homelessness.
According to the ARA survey of municipalities, in November 2010 there were a total of 7,877 solitary homeless people in Finland, of whom 3,079 were long-term homeless. Among solitary homeless people, 5,257 lived temporarily with relatives and acquaintances. In the ten reduction programme cities which had signed letters of intent with the state, the number of solitary homeless people totalled 6,125, of whom 2,498 were long-term homeless. 1,249 of these long-term homeless people lived temporarily with relatives and acquaintances. Only a small section of long-term homeless people entering reduction programme housing units belonged to the group living with relatives and acquaintances. Such people are mainly affected by the lack of a dwelling, rather than being in need of special support. The primary solution for homeless people temporarily living with relatives and acquaintances must be found through the general housing allocation system for municipal rental housing.
Eliminating long-term homelessness calls for simultaneous measures at various levels, i.e. prevention of homelessness, general housing policy measures and measures targeted at eradicating long-term homelessness.
The programme objectives are
- To eliminate long-term homelessness by 2015
- To reduce the risk of long-term homelessness by more efficient use of the social rental housing stock in reducing homelessness
- To intensify measures aimed at preventing homelessness.
A. Targeted measures to eliminate long-term homelessness
1. By 2015, around 1,000 dwellings, supported housing or places in a care facility will be allocated to people experiencing long-term homelessness in the capital region; 750 of these will be in Helsinki and a total of 250 in Espoo and Vantaa. The aim is to have a total of at least 250 dwellings, supported housing units or places in care facilities in Tampere, Turku, Lahti, Kuopio, Joensuu, Oulu and Jyväskylä by 2015. City-specific objectives will be specified in detail in the letters of intent. Letters of intent can also be drawn up with other cities with a large number of long-term homeless people, provided that more resources are allocated to the programme's implementation.
2. Action plans for the elimination of long-term homelessness will be drawn up in cities participating in the programme’s implementation. An action plan is a comprehensive plan encompassing the use of social rental housing in the housing of homeless people, the need for housing solutions and support aimed at people suffering from long-term homelessness, preventive measures and the development of housing services for people recovering from substance abuse and mental health problems, and structural changes to be implemented in such services. These plans will include a specified schedule for projects to be launched and other measures.
3. The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA) will allocate investment grants to groups with special needs, for projects accepted within the sphere of the programme. In the period 2012–2015, grants of a maximum of 15 million euros/year will be allocated.
4. In accordance with the Act on Accommodation and Catering (2006/308), the use of dormitories to house homeless people in the long term will be abandoned. Dormitories will be replaced with individual residential units, as specified in the Act on Residential Leases (1995/481), or supported housing units as specified in the Social Welfare Act (1982/710). ARA investment grants for groups with special needs can be allocated for alteration work performed on these dormitories.
5. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will fund the provision of support services in accordance with the programme. Funding will be allocated for personnel costs arising from the provision of support services, as outlined in the programme objectives. State funding can be allocated for payroll expenditure associated with support staff. Such staff may be working within the cities' own new projects and projects implemented through outsourcing during the period 2012–2015, where payroll expenditure totals 6.7 million euros at a minimum.
6. In the period 2012–2015, on the basis of its assistance strategy and more detailed guidelines drawn up in line with it, the Finnish Slot Machine Association RAY will award support, in the form of operational and development grants to organisations developing and arranging activities for the prevention of long-term homelessness and supported housing for the long-term homeless and people in danger of becoming homeless. In addition, it is expected that, profit development permitting, RAY will support the acquisition of dwellings for the long-term homeless, with an annual appropriation of 10 million euros.
By setting funds aside within the indicative support plan for the acquisition of dwellings for groups with special needs, a total of 2.5 million euros of this appropriation can be allocated to the acquisition of supported housing, intended for people to be released from prison and homeless people subject to a monitoring sentence.
7. In cooperation with the programme cities and organisations providing housing services, the Criminal Sanctions Agency will establish local practices to secure housing and the required support for people placed under probation or subject to a monitoring sentence and without a place to live.
B. Prevention of homelessness
8. In order to prevent homelessness among young people, a nationally coordinated, cross-sectoral joint project involving cities, the church and organisations, for the prevention of homelessness of young people will be implemented in the programme cities. The Finnish Youth Housing Association will be responsible for coordinating the project. Prevention of homelessness among young people will be included in the letters of intent between the programme cities and the state. RAY is prepared to allocate operational and development grants to organisations working to prevent homelessness amongst young people, within the framework of its annual appropriations for the period 2012–2015. Housing advisory services and support in daily life management, aimed at preventing homelessness and social exclusion, will be increased to cover at least 500 young people, and at least 600 residential units for young people will be constructed with the support of ARA and RAY.
9. Housing advisory services will be given permanent status by confirmation of the statutes on housing advisory services.
Municipalities will be supported in establishing permanent housing advisory services and expanding them, through the allocation of central government funding through ARA, for 20% of the advisory service costs or similar preventive activities. Granting of support is conditional upon the municipalities having jointly agreed procedures in place between the social services and housing providers, on preventing evictions and cooperation in case of evictions. In addition, housing advisory services and housing support must be fully integrated within the action plans.
C. Reducing the risk of long-term homelessness
10. Municipalities with long-term homeless people have the opportunity to apply for ARA investment grants for groups with special needs. Such grants are provided for projects providing supported housing for the long-term homeless. When granting such support, ARA will take account of other measures taken by the municipality to reduce homelessness.
11. Use of dormitories and emergency shelters will be abandoned as a housing solution for the long-term homeless. Municipalities are eligible for ARA investment grants for groups with special needs, aimed at converting dormitories into supported housing units and renovating emergency shelters into emergency housing units.
D. Management and coordination of the programme
12. The programme to eliminate long-term homelessness will be executed through a partnership between the state authorities, programme cities and organisations. The Ministry of the Environment will be responsible for managing and coordinating the programme, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the Ministry of Justice and ARA and RAY.
13. The Ministry of the Environment will appoint a steering and monitoring group for the programme, to be chaired by a representative of ARA.
14. The Ministry of the Environment will allocate a separate annual appropriation, of a maximum of 70,000 euros, from its operating expenditure for the management and coordination of the programme.
15. Research and development in support of the programme's implementation will receive annual support from ARA development funding.