This month, Sveriges Stadsmissioner (The Swedish City Missions),  published their annual Homelessness Report (In Swedish). This marks the eleventh year in which the report has been published and this year the focus is on the effectiveness of municipalities’ work against homelessness. The report makes recommendations for action from local to national levels and strives for Sweden to look abroad for inspiration and opportunity.


The challenge of homelessness has been gaining prominence in Sweden in recent years and confronting it has broad political support. Therefore, Sveriges Stadsmissioner use the report as an opportunity to call upon political parties to take advantage of this and develop a comprehensive National Strategy on Homelessness. This strategy should be ambitious and aspire to align itself with Agenda 2030 and the EU’s ambition of ending homelessness by 2030. They also recommend that the Social Services Act be reformed, to make it a sharper tool for fighting homelessness. As it stands, it is too easily used to arbitrarily raise the thresholds for accessing social support and housing.


Housing First is positioned as a necessary starting point in tackling homelessness in Sweden. It has already been applied in parts of the country, with positive results when implemented well. The report is clear that improper implementation should not be used as a measure against the potential of the model to work. Intrinsically linked to housing models is the availability of quality housing for people. Although housing construction has begun to recover from the onset of the pandemic there is not enough housing being built to meet the demands of the population; an estimated 462,000 households are overcrowded across the country. The new stock that does enter the housing market is often high-rent and inaccessible to persons with low incomes or without inherited or accumulated wealth.


Whilst the profile of homelessness has grown, a comprehensive understanding of its nuanced nature remains lacking, especially concerning structural homelessness. The report highlights the challenges in trying to establish a clear picture of the issue across the country – inconsistent data collection, long intervals between assessments and large discrepancies between municipal and civil society reports, are all factors that serve to blur the reality. One reason for this is that the quality of collaborations between municipal authorities and civil society are uneven across the country. The need for efficient models of collaboration is emphasised, between state and non-state actors including civil society and private property owners. The report also encourages the government and others to take up opportunities to learn from other countries, especially places where the Housing First model has been implemented successfully.