Homelessness in Europe – A Hidden Truth

As someone who migrated from a developing country, like most immigrants, every country in Europe seemed close to perfect in every way. When looking at Europe from far, it seemed as if there are no financial issues here, no citizen is suffering to get a shelter or starving and that the first priority in these countries are to see that every citizen has at least basic needs fulfilled such as a roof over their head, clothes and food.  In many

developing or ‘smaller’ countries and third world countries such as in South Asia or in Africa, children in school are taught only good and positive things about the countries in Europe and other richer countries, the services provided to citizens in these countries are highlighted in the news and people are not given much information about the sad truth of homelessness and other struggles in European countries. Even after moving to Finland, I could not see many homeless people living in the streets mainly because compared to my home country, here it is very difficult to spot homeless people from a crowd of ‘normal’ people.  

Although, most countries in Europe have one of the best welfare systems which provides its citizens with many excellent services, are there enough services to keep people from ending up in the streets? Or worse, dying in the streets? As we know, it is very difficult to collect precise data on homeless people, which also affects the services provided to them. In the past decade, homelessness has risen drastically in most of these countries. According to a 2019 report done by  European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), rising housing costs and overburden are major challenges in these countries, which mainly affects the poor households and middle class and has led many people to end up homeless in the past few years.  

A map of Europe with homeless data for each state. – https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/varadkar-claim-on-homelessness-damaging-to-charities-1.3434245 

‘’Overburden is when a household spends more than 40% of its income on housing costs. In the EU, it affects 10% of general households and 40% of poorer households. In poorer households in Greece, average overburden stands at 72% of monthly income. But richer member states like Denmark aren’t immune with overburden at 60% of the monthly income and in Germany, the average is 48%.’’ (Isabel Marques da Silva, Euronews, 2019). According to an article published by Euronews (2019), in many European countries, housing expenses are growing faster than the income which is taking a big slice of family budgets making it difficult for families to live by from their incomes. This is especially more difficult for single parents with only one person earning an income for the family.  

During an interview with Reuters, Leilani Farha (2019), states that in France, ‘’Evictions that are happening throughout the country, in a variety of different contexts, are not happening in compliance with international human rights law’’. She also mentions that people are not able to access even the most basic emergency services which is their right according to the Law in France.  

Homelessness in Europe is no longer happening only to the middle-aged, mentally unstable or substance abusers, which is a bitter truth of today’s world. ‘’Hidden homelessness, rough sleeping (situations) and people staying in emergency accommodation is really the tip of the iceberg. Homelessness is touching young people, that are particularly at risk, migrants in different situations, and women and children, all families, are increasingly affected by homelessness in Europe”, says Ruth Owen, policy coordinator (Euronews, 2019).  

Mortality rate caused by homelessness is a rising concern. In 2018, 566 homeless people died all over France, according to the charity Les Morts de la Rue (Euronews, 2019). Deaths caused by homelessness has also risen notably in many other countries in Europe in the last decade. As we all know, the weather in most of the countries in Europe in winter can get way too cold to live on the streets, which has also led to many deaths. Are these conditions being taken seriously enough? Is enough being done to help people in these conditions? Are governments of these countries even aware of the seriousness of homelessness or are they in denial of it? 

Homeless deaths rise driven by ‘drug poisoning’ – BBC News  

In an article written by Harry Quilter-Pinner in (The Guardian 2018), he mentions that ‘’as homelessness has rocketed in the UK- up 134% since 2010 – it has fallen by 35% in Finland over a similar period of time’’, as can be seen in the chart above. What made this possible? How difficult was this for Finland to accomplish? Why haven’t other countries in Europe tried the same method that Finland did, since it has shown good results for the past decade? An article in Euronews 2019 and many other sources state that, Finland is the only Member State where homelessness has been steadily decreasing for the last two decades, after creating the Housing First Policy.  

‘’Juha Kaakinen, who has led much of the work on ‘Housing First’ in Finland, explained that, ‘’this takes housing as a basic human right’’ rather than being conditional on engaging in services for addiction or mental health. This is fundamentally different to our model in the UK, where stable accommodation is only provided as a ‘’reward’’ for engaging in treatment services. The problem with this is obvious if you stop and think about it: how do we expect people to address complex personal problems while exposed to the chaos of life on the streets?’’ (Harry Quilter-Pinner, 2018). 

https://www.ara.fi/en-US/Materials/Homelessness_reports/Homelessness_in_Finland_2017(46471)

In the article Harry Quilter-Pinner says that, when he got to know Finland’s way of decreasing homelessness, he found that Finland’s solution to this was painfully simple and blindingly obvious: give homes to homeless people. If it really is that simple, then why aren’t every other country in Europe also taking the same action since Finland has proven that it works?  

Even though, most countries in Europe are ‘advanced’ in numerous ways compared to many other countries, there are sad truth about some serious issues in these countries that people don’t have enough knowledge about. There are questions on these issues out there that have no straight answers. For example, is there enough being done by the government to prevent or even decrease the issue of homelessness. Or, is the rising issue of homelessness being taken seriously? How to collect precise data of homeless people, which would help in improving the services provided to help them? 

References: 

https://www.euronews.com/2019/03/22/homelessness-in-europe-a-hidden-figure

https://www.euronews.com/2019/09/04/shipping-containers-are-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-homelessness-is-everywhere-in-brexit-britai

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/varadkar-claim-on-homelessness-damaging-to-charities-1.3434245

https://www.euronews.com/2019/04/13/france-must-do-more-for-its-homeless-says-un-housing-expert

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/12/finland-homelessness-rough-sleepers-britain

2 kommenttia artikkeliin ”Homelessness in Europe – A Hidden Truth

  1. Katja Mattila

    Wow! Amazing job Nitika. I really enjoyed your blog post. The work you put in really shows. I liked the statistics and the pictures making your message more clear and more visual. I also liked your personal experience and to me it was really surprising also. Very important subject and again great text. Thank you.

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    1. Nitika

      Thank you for such a nice comment Katja! Yes, it really is very surprising how visible homelessness is in some places compared to others. I am glad you liked the text. It means a lot to me that you took the time to read my post and comment on it.

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