I belong to an Asian country where the sight of people sleeping on pavements or seeking shelter under closed shops is a common sight. I never gave a second thought to such things. Homelessness is a big problem, but the steps taken in these countries are not enough to limit it. After coming to Finland, I have never come across people living or sleeping on the streets. This was a noticeable change for me. Homelessness is not a visible problem although it exists.
The Finnish state has policies to control and eliminate homelessness. Various NGOs are also working to help people with homelessness problems. One such NGO is the Vva ry (Vailla Vakinaista Asuntoa ry) which has been in charge of the supported housing unit in Pasila since 2015. Vva ry was founded in 1986 by the people who had been homeless before. It is engaged in advocating the rights to good housing and homes. It works in partnership with municipalities, Government and other organizations to promote the cause of ending homelessness. It also ensures that the voice of the vulnerable groups is heard in decision making.
The supported housing unit in Pasila consists places for 65 residents. The principle of asunto ensin is followed here. The residents may have many problems such as mental health issues and substance abuse or they may be perfectly normal healthy people who are a victim of circumstances.
During a conversation with the staff members at the facility, we came to know that for some residents the place was kind of a transition phase from being homeless to finding a home, while some stay for longer periods. Most of the residents who come there are unemployed. They are referred by the Helsinki municipality and have a service plan made along with the social worker. The staff in the unit can also help the residents with things like paper work, etc. and the social worker from the Helsinki city also visits at regular intervals.
The location has good connectivity to all the major services. It helps when location is near to the transport links, a hospital, church, etc. The rooms are provided with basic amenities such as a bed, chair and table, although if they want, they can themselves furnish it with more things. Donations are accepted, for e.g., some nearby restaurants donate extra food for the residents. Members of staff are available 24 hours a day.
The residents also had good things to say about the facility. They felt that it really helps if the location is in the central part of the city with all the services nearby. The staff members are caring and friendly. The residents feel they get acceptance and respect. If somebody has been sick, the staff enquires about their health and keep a check on it. If someone has not come out of their rooms for longer than three days, the staff can open their rooms to check on them. The residents said they felt like they were a part of the community and were happy with the services provided.
The staff and the organization are doing a valuable job by helping and being there for the people who find themselves homeless due to various reasons. For the homeless it is essential that they have a place to call home, to be able to organize their lives and feel involved in it. Therefore, having a rent agreement creates a feeling of permanency and helps them feel connected to the society. The feeling of being a part of community empowers them and can help overcome other problems in their lives.https://asuntoensin.fi/assets/files/2019/04/Junailijankujan-asumisyksiko%CC%88n-kokemuksia-terveyspalveluiden-saatavuudesta-VVA-ry.pdf