5 minute read
As homelessness is becoming a growing problem in countries around the world, many have taken the challenge to create innovative multidisciplinary ways to reduce or even prevent it. Finnish Housing First policy, Universal Basic Income, and reusing plastic waste to build cheaper housing are just some ideas to fight this phenomenon. However, is having a home in the end necessary for well-being or will living-as-a-service become the base for urban life?
National or business issue?
The latest global survey by United Nations has estimated that there were over 100 million homeless people in the world in 2005. Habitat of Humanity has shown that 1.6 billion people lived in “inadequate shelter” in 2015. In the EU, homelessness in on the rise due to increasing housing prices. Nevertheless, Finland is the only nation to show decreasing statistics and improvement of social housing programs. The country started fighting the issue on a government level in the 1980s. The real breakthrough happened with Housing First approach in 2007 when displaced people were given permanent rental homes instead of shelters. The Finnish multidisciplinary system aims to both reduce, by providing support and housing, and prevent homelessness by further offering support and meaningful activities. Currently, most of Finland’s citizens without a home are those who live with family or friends rather than on the streets. Studies have shown that offering dwellings for one long-term homeless person save approximately 15,000€ of public funds per year. For instance, in 2015, the city of Helsinki saved 1.5 million euros with work on housing guidance, and by ensuring a place to call home for hundreds of people.
Compared to the situation in Finland, homelessness is an even greater problem in Mexico City which is the sixth largest in the world. 21 million people live in the densely populated area with 9,800 inhabitants per square kilometer. Half of the population lives in informal dwellings, in addition to 15-30 thousand citizens who live on the streets. As city authorities have been reported to ignore the matter, individual companies have decided to tackle the problem. A Mexican startup, EcoDomum, has accepted the challenge of offering reasonably priced housing for those in need by hitting two birds with one stone. The company uses excess plastic waste to make cheap but durable building materials. The solution aids the environment, as the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most plastic polluted bodies of water in the world. This way displaced people are provided with affordable residence, while simultaneously cleaning the environment. These measures are needed in a place like Mexico where homelessness is too big of an issue for the state to handle alone.
Future of a stable lifestyle
As Finland’s government and startups in Mexico create strategies to offer housing to the homeless, other approaches ensure fewer individuals end up homeless in the first place. “While people experiencing chronic homelessness make up a small number of the overall homeless population, they are among the most vulnerable. They tend to have high rates of behavioral health problems, including severe mental illness and substance use disorders; conditions that may be exacerbated by physical illness, injury, or trauma”, stated the US National Alliance to End Homelessness. A citizenship project was conducted in New Haven, US for people with a history of mental health issues and criminal backgrounds, some of who had also experienced homelessness. The project offered participants 4 months of classes to get in touch with the 5 R’s of being a regular citizen. These are rights, responsibilities, roles, resources, and relationships. The project resulted in a 55% decrease in alcohol and drug use as well as better life quality. These findings suggest that the prevention of homelessness could be maintained by offering education and job opportunities to individuals at risk.
The citizenship project targeted only the most vulnerable populations. However, could homelessness be avoided altogether? As low income is one of the main reasons for the issue of homelessness, Universal Basic Income offers part of the solution to prevent the problem long term. An unconditional monthly income of $1000 could increase GDP by 12%. UBI was not designed to fix homelessness, however it supplies the displaced with a basic income that ensures basic needs, such as housing and averts them from committing crimes. This monthly income could also be used for education, which later enables individuals to support themselves more efficiently.
Is a home necessary?
Just as much as being homeless is a problem with dire consequences, it can also be a lifestyle chosen by an individual to provide possibilities of realising one’s dreams. Digital nomads are people who enjoy the flexibility provided by modern portable technology and work remotely while travelling the world. These individuals keep changing locations without assigning the role of a “home” to the place they stay. Digital nomads tend to avoid attachments that would endanger the ability to keep on the move. It has been suggested that by 2035, 1 billion people would live their lives as digital nomads. However, can one be a digital nomad if there is always a home to return to?
Another form of modern homelessness could be defined as the lifestyle of “Generation Rent”. These individuals tend to live most of their lives in rental housing rather than settling down into a house of their own. Statistics from the US have shown that 40% of those who live in rented homes are Millennials. This group has also been predicted to be less likely to own their own home than previous generations. However, also older Americans over the age of 55 have begun to rent apartments instead of owning them. These older tenants increased by 28% between 2009 and 2015. Renting can help save money, as down payments are lower and mortgages aren’t needed. Additionally, living in a rental home gives freedom to move from place to place more easily while keeping options open for the future.