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A homeless city on the streets

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Title of the mediumCan the UK learn from Finland's homelessness approach?

The number of people sleeping in the UK asleep has multiplied since 2010. But in Helsinki, Finland, gross sleep has almost disappeared thanks to a pioneering plan. What can the cities in the UK learn from the Finns?

It originates from the magnificent central railway station in Helsinki on a bitterly cold evening, but it does not take long before you notice anything unusual.

There are no rough sleepers and nobody wants to.

The contrast with the big cities and cities in the UK – where ordinary views of irregular sleepers crumpled in sleeping bags, blankets or tents – is striking.

"I remember in my childhood that hundreds or even thousands of people slept in parks and forests," said Deputy Mayor Helsinki Sanna Vesikansa.

"It was visible, but we do not have it. There is no homelessness in the street in Helsinki."

Over the last 30 years, the problem of homelessness has been addressed by gradual governments in Finland.

In 1987, there were over 18,000 homeless people. The latest data from the end of 2017 show that there were about 6,600 people classified as homeless.

The vast majority live with friends or family or are in temporary accommodation. Only very few people really sleep on the streets.

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The average minimum winter temperature in Helsinki is -7C (19F)

So how did the Finns handle it?

Since 2007, their government has built a homeless policy based on the principle of "Housing in the first place".

Simply put, they give rough sleepers or people who become homeless as stable and permanent home as possible.

He then provides them with the necessary help and support. It can be to support someone who is trying to cope with addiction, helping them learn new skills or helping them get into training, education or work.

This is very different from the traditional approach in the UK where homelessness is only offered after the homeless has sought help in a homeless or temporary accommodation.

The only person who benefited is Thomas Salmi, who became homeless when he was 18 years old and had to leave his orphanage.

He spent three years in the streets of Helsinki, where the average minimum temperature is in February -7C (19F).

"If you lose everything, it does not matter," he says. "You mean suicide, will I die? Is it safe?

"It's cold, especially in the middle of winter, and if you're sleeping outside, it can die."

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Thomas Salmi raised three cold winters in the streets of the Finnish capital

In the past two years, Thomas had his own apartment in a large complex run by the Helsinki Diaconal Institute (HDI), one of several organizations providing accommodation for otherwise homeless.

Now, fourteen, he says he lives in HDI and helped him change his life. During a strong beer he lived in the streets, but nowadays he only touches alcohol.

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For Housing first, the house offer is unconditional. Even if someone is still using drugs or abusing alcohol, they still stay in the house or in the apartment if they behave with supporters.

They are not obliged to pay any rent, and people can even decide to stay for the rest of their lives.

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Institut Helsinki Deaconess

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The Helsinki Institute Deaconess has over 400 flats for former homeless people

"They told me it was my house," says Thomas. "And I asked them – will someone tell me," do we need the house and you have to go? "But they said," No, it's your house, you can do what you want. "

"If I have a stable home, I can try to build everything else like work, study, family, friends, but when you're on the streets, you have nothing to do."

HDI has a total of 403 apartments in Helsinki and the neighboring city of Espoo.

The tenants are preparing for lunch together in the shared kitchen and socially in the common room. Support staff are always at hand.

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Pia Rosenberg has been on the streets for four years

Pia Rosenberg, 64, lives in the same Housing First project since 2014 after being homeless for two years.

"It suits me well because I'm an alcoholic and I'm allowed to drink in my room," he says. "And when I need help, then I get it.

"You do not feel well if you do not have a home."

According to official figures, the number of British frets in England rose from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,751 in 2017.

Charities like Shelter say the actual number of sleep is much higher. The official numbers are based on the number of homeless people who counted one street each year on the street.

Housing The first success gained the attention of the UK government, which last year agreed to pay for pilot projects in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and the West Midlands.

Exams are about to begin early and will be aimed at helping the most rooted nerds.

But is it a good idea, in essence, to pass the keys to accommodation without the obligation to pass alcohol or drugs?

"We see that it works in Finland, so why can not it work here," says Neil Cornthwaite, Barnabus Manchester's head of operations for the hopeless charity.

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Yui Mok / PA

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Several thousand people in the UK are asleep, according to Charlotte Shelter

"There are many obstacles that people get into housing, and some groups of people are excluded from projects due to their addictions and / or mental health.

"So if we have another option where we can transfer people to their home, not just their bed, then I think it's a really positive step forward."

Will it work in the UK? While the scheme is considered to be successful in Finland, it has drawbacks. Homes are not always available immediately, and numbers show that roughly one in five people will sometimes return to homelessness.

Housing in this way is not cheap. Over the past decade, Finland spent approximately £ 262 million (€ 300 million) and provided 3,500 new homeless homes and more than 300 new support staff.

The UK government spends 28 million pounds on three housing regimes and hopes to provide around 1,000 households.

One of the key housing architects in Finland, Juha Kaakinen, believes that this will only work if the UK authorities are fully committed.

"In many places, housing is like small projects with a small number of flats, and you have to do much more than to end homelessness, and for this reason, it should be national politics, otherwise it will not work."

Mr Kaakinen suggests that UK housing should be the priority of the housing crisis.

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Christopher Furlong

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The number of coarse sleepers in England has multiplied since 2010

"It seems that the main problem is the lack of affordable social housing. To solve homelessness, it is something you otherwise need, it will be a very challenging task."

Major Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham believes the scheme is the right answer.

"You can not have good health or a good life without good housing," he says.

"I am convinced that we will show that housing can work first, and I will ask the government to take it."

Housing and Homelessness Minister Heather Wheeler insists the government is listening and taking action.

"Nobody wants to spend their lives on the streets or homeless.

"And the evidence shows that Housing, in the first place, has an incredible degree of success when it helps people to restore life."

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Sanna Vesikansa, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki

Back in Helsinki, Ms Vesikan's vice-mayor believes that fighting homelessness and ending gross sleep is not just a moral obligation, it can also save money in the long run.

"We already know that this is true because we have other costs if people are homeless, have more serious health problems that are subsequently taken to emergency care and to the hospital.

"Homelessness and coarse sleep is something that we simply can not have in our cities, people are dying in the streets. It's not the type of society or city in which we want to live."

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