How do other countries deal with homelessness?

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Homeless camp cleanup at U.S. Highway 183 and Burnet Road (KXAN Photo / Frank Martinez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council continues to try to find ways to improve the situation for the city’s homeless population. It’s had some successes but also failures as it struggles to make a meaningful difference.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler and others previously traveled to Seattle and Los Angeles to get a better understanding on how each city has approached its homelessness response. But within the state of Texas, homelessness is not just an Austin-specific issue.

Statewide, more than 27,000 people experience homelessness in Texas, according to updated data from January 2020 provided by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Of its total homeless population, more than 1,900 families, over 1,900 veterans in Texas experience homelessness, per USICH. Over 4,000 people are categorized as experiencing chronic homelessness, defined by USICH as people with a disability who are experiencing extensive or repeated cycles of homelessness.

As Austin city leaders look toward redressing its homelessness response, here are how four countries have helped minimize — and in some instances, nearly eradicated — homelessness.

Canada

Canada’s National Housing Strategy has allocated more than $70 billion to create safe and affordable housing for citizens. Canada’s community-based program initiative, Reaching Home, aims to minimize chronic homelessness nationally, with a targeted goal of 50% reduction by fiscal year 2027-28.

Other features denoted in the National Housing Strategy include construction investments for 125,000 new, affordable homes and reducing housing needs by 530,000 families.

Finland

Fewer than 5,000 people identified as homeless in Finland in late 2020, according to data released by the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland. From that dataset, there were 201 families and couples identified as homeless, and just over 1,000 people were reported as experiencing long-term homelessness.

Finland’s housing efforts focus on permanent, long-term housing solutions as opposed to temporary shelter. Introduced in 2007, the Finnish Housing First Approach operates on a needs-based assessment to help provide resources, rehabilitation and work skills assistance.

“We will halve homelessness during the government term and eradicate homelessness within two government terms, in other words, by 2027.”

European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless, NOVEMBER 2020 REPORT

Finland’s Y-Foundation purchases flats and uses them to help provide housing for those experiencing homelessness, with permanent living flats featuring on-site staff to provide support and resources for tenants. Data from 2016 reported the Y-Foundation had nearly 7,000 apartments across 52 cities and municipalities.

National reports project an eradication of homelessness nationwide in 2027.

Japan

Japan’s national homelessness numbers hit a record low in 2021 with approximately 3,800 people identified as experiencing in homelessness, according to an April 2021 story reported by the Japan Times. The total figure marks a 4.2% decline from January 2020, per Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Japan’s homelessness alleviation strategy includes a multifaceted approach of providing permanent housing, resources and community support to those without housing. The Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund is a major nonprofit organization based in Japan that oversees the allocation of these resources. The Fund also runs Tsukuroi House, an initiative that rehabilitates abandoned homes and rooms for homeless shelters.

“In Japan, the absolute number of the homeless declined by around 12% between 2018 and 2020.”

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, May 2021 homeless population report

Singapore

A 2019 Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy study marked the first substantial analysis into Singapore’s homelessness population, reporting “between 921 and 1,050 homeless people in Singapore.”

With a substantive number of those experiencing homelessness engaged in part-time or full-time employment, the Ministry of Social and Family Development unveiled the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers, or PEERS, Network in July 2019. PEERS unifies 26 different nonprofit and governmental agencies uses a multifaceted approach of providing both shelter and socialization resources.

The Ministry also launched crisis shelters for those experiencing chronic, life-threatening homelessness, and transitional shelters for those making their ways from shelter-less living to more stabilized housing. Approximately 300 people received assistance from Ministry-led programs between 2016-2018, per reports.

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