10 Oct
  • By James Evans

Global Homelessness Crisis

Homelessness is one of the world’s largest crises right now. The last time the UN attempted to a global survey on homelessness is estimated that over 100 million people were homeless and a further 1.6 billion lack adequate housing. Those statistics are from 2005, imagine how many people it would be now if you add the 22.5 million refugees this year and 60 million people internally displaced by conflicts such as Syria, Myanmar, Yemen and many others.

Conflict zones aside, many “wealthy” countries, i.e. Britain, Ireland, Australia and America, are facing very large homelessness crisis. The amount of homeless people in Britain being the highest it’s been in roughly 25 years. It is estimated that well over half a million people are homeless in America and in Ireland the number of children who are homeless has risen to over 3000. The physiological effects of homelessness on children, ranging from major developmental delays to large emotional and mental problems, are long-lasting and very damaging.

A homeless man holds out his cap for money in Sydney's Central Business District on July 10, 2014, as Australia's unemployment rate returned to a decade high of 6.0 percent in June data has showed. The economy shed full-time jobs amid "challenging" conditions and as more people looked for work. The jobless rate pushed higher even as the economy added a seasonally adjusted 15,900 positions to take the number of people employed to 11.578 million, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

(The real housing crisis gripping Australia Shockingly over 100,000 Australians are currently homeless!)

In many countries, the government services and funding to deal with this crisis are being stretched to breaking point, as usual, NGO’s and charities step up to fill the gap but often, despite much hard work, it is not enough. In March of 2017, Feantsa, the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless, released its second report on housing exclusion in Europe. The report revealed that every single country in Europe, except for one, is in the middle of a housing crisis.

The only country in Europe which has seemingly almost ended rough sleeping is Finland. Finland once again leading the way in solving global issues. How have they done it? With possibly the most obvious solution, building houses. Since 2008 Finland has followed a Housing First model, on a national rather than city or regional level. In 2008 Finland had 600 emergency beds for people sleeping rough, now the entire country only needs 52. The system requires long-term Investment in affordable housing with government incentives and the conversion of shelters in housing units.

At a basic level, the policy aims to offer people permanent housing as soon as they become homeless rather than forcing them through various services and tests until they may be offered accommodation, there are almost no waiting lists, the method aims to actually end the homelessness crisis rather than just to manage it. Along with housing each individual case is provided with services and facilities needed for their specific case. One of the goals of the housing first module is to provide the homeless people with a solid base from which to gain back control over their lives and regain their independence without having to worry about where they will sleep or if the will freeze in the winter.

Boy huddled and alone on city street

(More children are homeless in Ireland than ever before)

Finland’s module also focuses on services, housing alone without sufficient, health, employment and education services will not fully end the problem and could potentially lead to recurrent homelessness. Furthermore, Finland has emphasised integration of people given housing rather than segregation. People given housing are not in isolated areas solely with other previously homeless people. Efforts are also being made to combat stigma surrounded homelessness, poverty and substance abuses.

It does not make sense to have to manage a homelessness crisis when it seems possible to actually end it. To provide the services that help people stay in their own homes and if they do lose them to be able to provide them with a home and not a bed in a hostel or shelter. The sad thing is the cost of this method are actually not that large and are totally within most countries abilities. Investing in this manner has been shown to save money in the long run (once again in Finland) all it will take is the will and long-term vision to implement a system, in the words of John Lewis “if not us, then who? If not now, then when?


“Watchdog says children deeply affected by homelessness” RTE News, 2017. https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2017/1002/909059-children-homelessness/

“Homelessness and its effect on children” Family Housing Fund. http://www.fhfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Homlessness_Effects_Children.pdf

“Number of homeless children in Ireland over 3,000 for first time” The Irish Times, 2017. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/number-of-homeless-children-in-ireland-over-3-000-for-first-time-1.3238280 

“What can the UK learn from how Finland solved homelessness?” The Guardian, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2017/mar/22/finland-solved-homelessness-eu-crisis-housing-first

“The Second Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe 2017” FEANTSA 2017. http://www.feantsa.org/en/report/2017/03/21/the-second-overview-of-housing-exclusion-in-europe-2017 

“War, violence and persecution have uprooted more men, women and children around the world than at any time in the seven-decade history of UNHCR according to a report published today.” The UNHCR, 2017. http://www.unhcr.org/afr/news/stories/2017/6/5941561f4/forced-displacement-worldwide-its-highest-decades.html