Some days back, a letter written by a mother of two children went viral on the internet. She was protesting the “not in my backyard syndrome”, in Los Angeles. People were against having shelters for homeless people to be constructed in their neighborhood. Keanakay Scot was raised in a foster home and literally dumped on the streets after she turned eighteen. She had no home and was lacking skills. She got no guidance on further education, to pay for credit or even fill up forms for housing. She has been chronically homeless for about 10 years. Her story made me think. Would her situation have been different if instead of just taking away her right to a home after she turned 18, the social services had given her a place to stay and feel safe, secure, not feel neglected and alone? What if rehabilitative and support services were given after supporting her to settle in a safe and comfortable place.
Asunto ensin or Housing first is a principle that is followed in many European nations along with Finland, which states that housing is a starting point rather than an end goal. It tends to separate homelessness from other problems like unemployment, lack of skills, addiction etc. The idea of housing first was developed by Dr. Sam Tsembris, in New York in early 1990s originally to help homeless people with mental health problems and then it was modified for homeless people. A home is a starting point of social integration. By having a home, the service users are reintroduced to a normal life. It emphasizes the role of housing as the first step in which a homeless person lives in a community and is no longer excluded from it by lacking a home.
Asunto ensin is along the lines of a normal home where there is a contract for secure tenancy, is a private space for the service user and he has control over who can visit and enter it. It should be affordable so that they can pay rents with the support money or meagre income. It should have all the basic amenities that a normal house has and is fit to live. Locality is also important in a way that a good neighborhood can be a determinant of health, wellbeing and social integration and is a positive influence on the service user. It operates on the eight core principles which are shown in the picture.
Finland has been able to reduce homelessness since the PAAVO program targeted at long term homelessness were introduced by the Government, which used the housing first principle a default approach for addressing homelessness since 2008. It also introduced several new ways to support people and to improve integration in neighborhoods along with individually tailored support services, increasing supply of affordable rental housing and preventive measures. Thus we can conclude that housing first principle of finding a home for the service user and then providing with other support, rehabilitation or treatment is very effective way of reducing homelessness.https://spectrumnews1.com/ca/la-west/news/2019/03/14/homeless-mom-s-letter-to-nimby-supporters# http://www.housingfirstguide.eu/website/wp-content/uploads/2016/HFG/Chapter1.pdf http://www.housingfirstguide.eu/website/wp-content/uploads/2016/HFG/Chapter4.pdf