I've called Halifax home since 2018, and this Christmas marks my sixth festive season in this vibrant maritime city, nestled along the Atlantic Ocean.
Every year, Halifax rings in Christmas with festive lights adorning the City Hall, creating a magical atmosphere for families to enjoy in Downtown Halifax. However, this year (2023) paints a starkly different picture as the area opposite City Hall has transformed into a makeshift campsite, sheltering around 20 homeless individuals. This striking contrast underscores a deep-rooted issue - homelessness.
Homelessness is a multifaceted problem, influenced by various factors such as mental health, addiction, unemployment, and unaffordable housing. In Canada, these challenges are exacerbated by the lack of accessible mental health resources, rising housing costs, and economic disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic further intensified these struggles, leaving many vulnerable individuals without a roof over their heads.
Taking a Cue from Finland: A Model for Success
I was reading about the homelessness problem across the world and learned that Finland as a country was successful in tackling the homelessness challenge and the number of people going through has reduced drastically over the years.
Finland's approach to homelessness offers a beacon of hope. By adopting a "Housing First" model, Finland prioritized providing stable housing to individuals experiencing homelessness before addressing other challenges. This approach, coupled with comprehensive support services, has led to a significant reduction in homelessness. The emphasis on dignified living conditions and holistic support has proven effective in breaking the cycle of homelessness.
A closer look at the steps taken by Finland to address and effectively reduce homelessness:
- Housing First Philosophy: The cornerstone of Finland's strategy is the principle of "Housing First," providing immediate access to stable and permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness.
- Comprehensive Support Services: Once housed, individuals receive comprehensive support services tailored to their specific needs. This includes mental health services, addiction treatment, job training, and social integration programs.
- Prevention Strategies: Finland emphasizes early intervention to prevent homelessness. By identifying individuals at risk and providing timely support, they aim to prevent the escalation of challenges that may lead to homelessness.
- Collaboration and Coordination: Finland promotes collaboration among various agencies, including social services, healthcare providers, and housing authorities. This coordinated effort ensures a seamless support system for individuals experiencing homelessness.
- Public Awareness and Destigmatization: Finland has implemented public awareness campaigns to challenge stereotypes and foster empathy. Changing public perceptions is crucial for building a supportive community for individuals transitioning out of homelessness.
Finland's success in significantly reducing homelessness demonstrates the effectiveness of a compassionate and housing-centric approach. By prioritizing stable housing and offering tailored support services, Finland has not only provided homes but also restored dignity and hope to those facing the challenges of homelessness.
Next Steps for Halifax: A Call to Local Action
Tackling the issue of homelessness is undeniably complex, and it's particularly heartening to witness the difficult circumstances faced by those affected, especially during the festive season.
While the city of Halifax acknowledges the issue, the measures outlined on their website and actions on the ground appear to be more temporary than permanent solutions.
To address homelessness in Halifax, we can learn from Finland on how they tackled the homelessness issue and take steps for a lasting solution.
In conclusion, Finland's success in significantly reducing homelessness demonstrates the effectiveness of a compassionate and housing-centric approach. By prioritizing stable housing and offering tailored support services, Finland has not only provided homes but also restored dignity and hope to those facing the challenges of homelessness.
What do you think of the homelessness situation in Halifax? What changes you would want the Halifax regional municipality to do? Is adopting to Finland's strategy of Housing First could solve the issue of homelessness? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you.