On 10 February, our Policy and Membership Development Officer, Ms Magdalena Bordagorry, travelled to Helsinki to join our member Helsinki Deaconess Institute (HDL) in the visit that the French Minister for Housing, Ms Emmanuelle Wargon made to our Finish member.

Finland is the only EU country where the number of people leaving in homelessness is decreasing, due to the collaborative work of diverse stakeholders, and homeless policies based largely on a Housing First approach. The Housing First approach, also implemented by HDL, aims to make it possible for people to have permanent housing of their own from the start. Thus, there are no set preconditions -such as lifestyle changes- for residents to access their flats, support, and care services when needed. In HDL’s housing facilities, all residents receive a personal plan and have a supervisor to guide them, and different levels of support if needed.

The French Housing Minister’s visit was organised to get to know the Housing First programmes run by HDL, as they are considered as a model for the rest of Europe. On the occasion, Ms Wargon and her delegation visited the Hia unit, an intensified housing service for residents with substance abuse and mental health problems. There, they had the opportunity to meet some of the residents, learn how the facility is run, and have some fruitful discussions with HDL representatives.

Olli Holmström, President of HDL, expressed his contentment with the visit of the French Minister and highlighted the social benefits of a Housing First approach to homelessness: “It has been calculated that housing one long-term homeless person saves society about 15,000 euros a year in reduced health care costs, among other things. Not to even mention the huge human impact of ending homelessness”.

Ms Bordagorry also had the chance to visit the women’s housing unit which provides a home for 28 formerly homeless women. She met Markus Karvinen, Director of the unit, who provided some valuable input regarding the project and its main challenges, and she also could speak to some of the residents of the unit.

Earlier that day, Ms Bordagorry visited VAMOS Helsinki, another HDL innovative programme that provides holistic support to youngsters and promotes their social inclusion. The programme is addressed to young people between 16 and 29 years old struggling with everyday problems, such as accessing employment, having a routine, or experiencing mental health issues. VAMOS operates in 11 different locations across Finland, and it is considered a real success, with 86% of the young people involved in the programme in 2020 asserting their lives had changed for the better due to VAMOS.

You can read more about the French Minister visit to HDL here. To find more about the incredible work that Helsinki Deaconess Institute is doing, please visit their website.

If you want to learn about the work that our members are doing to fight homelessness, you can check out our homelessness mapping.