Immigrant Youth and Homelessness in Finland: Challenges for the Multicultural Society

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May 1, 2014 by ceris

Finland’s Strategy to End Long-term Homelessness

Long-term homelessness has fallen dramatically in the past twenty years in Finland. The government has approved a national program to reduce and eliminate long-term homelessness by 2015. Phase one of this program, from 2008 to 2011, focused on reducing long-term homelessness where initiatives such as transforming short-term shelters into housing units were implemented. The second phase of the program started in 2012 and will be completed by 2015.

The New Face of Homelessness in Finland

The demographic profile of Finland’s homeless population is changing. Society is now facing new forms of homelessness. In the past, long-term homeless people made up the ”core” of homelessness. Today, young immigrants have become a growing subgroup of the homeless population.The number of homeless people has decreased in all categories except people living temporarily with friends and relatives.

According to the Homelessness in 2013 report, homeless immigrants surpassed the 1,000–person mark in 2011 for the first time. In 2013, homeless immigrants made up over 25 per cent of the total number of homeless people in Finland and immigrants accounted for over 60 per cent of homeless families. In the same year, the number of homeless immigrants in Helsinki rose by 450 people.

Canada and Finland – How Do They Compare?

In recent years, homelessness among immigrants has become more widespread and increasingly complex in multicultural Western countries such as Canada and Finland. While the problem has historically affected urban centres, including the metropolitan areas of Toronto and Helsinki, the increasing incidence of homelessness in suburban areas is creating a need for new policies, services and resources.

Finland and Canada are vastly different in terms of both population size and number of immigrants. However, it is possible to detect certain similarities in the societal development of the two countries. Cuts in public welfare services within the past decades and growing homelessness characterize both societies. Other similarities include the increasing number of immigrants and the popularity of the so-called “hidden homelessness” discourse.

Using the Experiences of Immigrant Youth to Tackle Homelessness

My research focuses in metropolitan areas and it is funded by the Helsinki Metropolitan Region Urban Research Program in Finland. I look at the paths and routes that lead immigrant youth to homelessness with the goal of providing valuable information on the first-hand experiences of immigrant youth. Learning about homelessness from the youth themselves can facilitate the development of service systems within the public and private sector. My research also seeks to identify whether homelessness among immigrant youth is associated with societal or cultural phenomena as well as the factors that should be considered in the prevention of homelessness and in the provision of supportive housing services.

About the blog author

MMarja Katiskoarja Katisko (PhD) works as a researcher at Diaconia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland. Her research is funded by the Helsinki Metropolitan Region Urban Research Program. Her current research project looks at homelessness among immigrant youth in multicultural societies such as Canada and Finland. Her previous research projects focused on child protection and immigrant families in the Metropolitan Helsinki area. Her research interests include international social work, multiculturalism and citizenship. Marja is CERIS visiting scholar for May 2014.

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