No nation is too far in search of new ideas. Housing minister Sajid Javid is heading to Finland to learn how the Scandinavian country is trying to end homelessness.
Javid is acting on the Centre of Social Justice’s recommendation that the UK government consider the experimental “Housing First” approach adopted in Finland and other countries.
The innovative concept, in essence, is this: give a homeless person a home. Housing First involves giving a people in and out of hostels some accommodation of their very own for an agreed period of time to help them sort out any addiction and mental health problems.
Rather than making them go through complicated tests and “good behaviour” steps while staying in hostels to make sure they are “housing ready,” as is currently the case, the person is trusted to turn a corner independently, with support provided at a distance.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
The CSJ says the innovative approach would cost £110 million a year, but would pay for itself in three years because of savings in emergency housing costs and other public services.
The Big Issue championed the idea last year as a means of preventing people from getting stuck in costly cycle of dependency. Researchers at the University of York found the potential annual savings of adopting the Housing First strategy ranged between £3,048 and £4,794 per person.
The difficulty, of course, is in finding decent homes for homeless people to live in. But the gains in trying some different could be huge. Let’s hope the housing minister picks up a few new ideas from the Finns.
Main image: iStock / Getty / klug-photo