4.2 The Strategic Response to Homelessness in Finland: Exploring Innovation and Coordination within a National Plan to Reduce and Prevent Homelessness

This chapter describes the results of an international review of the Finnish National Homelessness Strategy, covering the Paavo I and Paavo II programs, which took place between 2008–2011 and 2012–2015. The strategy focused heavily on long-term homelessness, with targets to halve levels by 2011 and to eliminate long-term homelessness by 2015. Since first identifying homelessness as a social problem in the 1980s, Finland had already succeeded in reducing total homelessness to very low levels by 2008; however, long-term homelessness, often experienced by people with high rates of severe mental illness, comorbidity of drug and alcohol use and poor physical health, formed a high proportion of the residual homeless population.

Paavo I and Paavo II were therefore specifically targeted at long-term homelessness and included a sometimes controversial use of the Housing First approach. Alongside the focus on bringing down long-term homelessness, the Paavo II program accelerated the national movement towards an integrated homelessness strategy, including increased preventative services and a greater emphasis on tackling concealed homelessness. The chapter describes the strategy, the context in which it arose, the successes that have been achieved and the challenges that still face Finland.

Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
Naomi Nichols; Carey Doberstein