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Comparative Approaches to Homelessness Around the World

Updated: Jan 18

Written by: Lauren Anderson

Edited by: Jacqueline Cheung

Dear CCP readers,

Today’s blog post will provide a comparative analysis of the state of homelessness in different countries and how the issue of homelessness is treated around the world. Around 150 million people experience homelessness globally, which is around two percent of the world population. The United Nations (UN) has declared this state of homelessness as a “serious violation of human dignity.”




Educating ourselves on different causes of homelessness and approaches to treating the complexities of homelessness, is essential as it can lead to a better understanding and unique perspective on treating the issue in our area. We will compare an approach taken by developed countries, such as Canada, the United States, Finland, Scotland, and the United Kingdom, as well as developing countries, such as India, Kenya, and Malawi.


If you would like to learn more information regarding the current state of homelessness in Canada and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), welcome! If you are returning for more information about the particular challenges faced by youth experiencing homelessness and those with animal companions, welcome back! If you are new to our blog, welcome to the community, and thank you for your interest in learning more about issues regarding the homelessness crisis in Canada and beyond - you are one step closer to becoming a changemaker in your community, and you are in great company.


Homelessness in Developed Countries


The approaches to preventing and treating homelessness in developed countries are varied and unique. Some countries, like Finland, have almost eradicated chronic homelessness. It is important to note the structural and size differences of each country, but the different perspectives offer incredible insight.


Canada


On June 11, 2018, Canada announced a new national housing strategy called “Reaching Home,” to reduce chronic homelessness by 50% within 10 years. This community-based program has a $2.2 billion commitment. The Canadian government redesigned the federal housing framework with new understandings and approaches to handling the homeless crisis.


Private organizations, like Nomodic, are also dedicated to providing affordable housing to the Canadian population, including indigenous affordable housing (Pauquachin First Nation Housing Project photograph below).




Finland


The Finland homeless population decreased by 50% in the past decade due to a tremendous initiative called the “Housing First” policy. The Housing First model employed by the Finnish government enforces the idea that housing is a human right and not a reward. Finnish people experiencing homelessness are given permanent independent housing in a community that has staff to help facilitate rehabilitation and integration into society again. This strategy led to increased investments in affordable housing and connecting their citizens experiencing homelessness with advisors to provide more stability for a successful transition out of homelessness.


United States of America


California is one of the largest states in the U.S., and it is the 6th largest economy in the world (larger than Canada). With such an economy and population, the state of homelessness in California mirrors the growth of other countries. There are 151,000 people living without homes in the state of California, and around 580,000 people facing homelessness in the U.S. Large cities, such as Los Angeles, have taken a unique approach to provide affordable, independent housing for their homeless community, which is around 65,000 people. The Hilda L. Solis Care First Village (photographed below) is an apartment complex made from shipping containers that were built in 5 months, has 232 units for living, and cost the U.S. government $57 million to build.




Scotland


The approach taken by Scotland is multifaceted, but the main focus is on the prevention of homelessness. Their strategy has been successfully detailed in this report. Their goal has been to prevent people from losing their homes at least six months before the expected loss. This strategy is incredibly insightful as it focuses on the root cause of the lack of affordable housing being a chief reason for homelessness. The ideal approach is outlined in the flowchart below:




Another important aspect they outlined in their report is a strong focus on children's services and efforts to help young people ages 16-24 years old. The Scotland homelessness prevention report explains how schools and health visitors can play a vital role in assessing risk factors to support the prevention of chronic homelessness for children. Some of these risk factors include poverty and strained relationships in the home. The risk factors for young people were found to be adverse childhood experiences, running away from home, being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and truancy issues within the school system. Understanding risk factors and supporting a complex approach using multiple public entities is crucial for homelessness prevention.


United Kingdom


A small study conducted by the University of Cambridge has found great success in building modular mini-homes for the homeless population. So far, they have noticed a decrease in substance abuse (due to the requirement of tenants to be sober upon entry), increased health, and an increase in a sense of well-being.


Similarities & Differences


There are many similarities and differences between the strategies and approaches taken by different countries and their federal and local governments. The most obvious commonality is that the lack of affordable housing is a fundamental cause of homelessness. Unaffordable housing is one of the major reasons that people find themselves facing homelessness, and various government regulations pose barriers to certain building developments to be created. There is also a direct correlation between someone’s housing status and their health outcomes. As realized in the University of Cambridge study cited above, people re-discovered their sense of self and overall well-being after obtaining independent shelter for a prolonged period. Providing housing is a key source to preventing the cycle of homelessness from prevailing.


Homelessness in Developing Countries


Based on our research, there are incredible innovative approaches to combat homelessness in developing countries, such as Kenya, India, and Malawi. Organizations in these countries have adopted building technologies, such as 3-D printed houses, to provide low-cost, efficient housing solutions for those in need.


India


Habitat for Humanity International invested $411,000 in a building project with Tvasta to build 20 million 3-D printed homes for low-income families. The goal was for this project to be completed within four years. This incredible feat has provided immediate relief to homelessness in India, with a homeless population of 1.77 million people. The photograph below is an example of one of the 3-D printed homes built, demonstrating their beauty!




Kenya


Kenya’s overall population is around 53 million people, and 40% of Kenyans live in extreme poverty. Over 2 million people in Kenya experience homelessness, and the problem continues to worsen. A unique primary cause of homelessness in Kenya is the displacement of people due to commercial business interests and development. Nonprofit organizations and community groups are leading the fight against homelessness in Kenya, but there is a critical need for government response and intervention.


Organizations such as 14trees are building 3-D printed houses within 12 hours in Kenya and Malawi (photograph seen below). These houses cost less than $10,000 and are environmentally friendly. Their construction reduces CO2 emissions by 70% in comparison to normal home construction.




Malawi


Malawi is another African country that is experiencing a grave situation of homelessness. There is a severe lack of homes in Malawi and a large number of orphans and vulnerable families need safe and secure housing. The population is around 20.79 million and 50% of the population lives in poverty. Nonprofit organizations including 14trees and Habitat for Humanity are leading large projects to build clean and stable housing for the people of Malawi.


The overall approaches to preventing and treating homelessness are different in developed countries versus developing countries. Although private and nonprofit organizations are helping with affordable housing initiatives in developed countries, they are almost the sole providers of solutions in developing countries. There is a greater need for government intervention throughout both groups.


Summary


The reality of homelessness is that it is a complex issue. It is an issue experienced across the globe, and it requires a multifaceted approach. Local and national governments can learn from other governmental systems that have nearly eradicated chronic homelessness. Each city, state, region, and/or country is unique, but there are similar causes of homelessness: lack of affordable housing, health status, education barriers, government regulations, and more.


We hope that the comparative analysis we provided in this blog post was educational and inspirational to all who have joined the fight to end homelessness. The CCP team strives to educate on matters relating to homelessness and partner with other organizations that are providing resources to youth facing homelessness.


As tax season approaches, please consider donating to our organization. For all donations over $25, you will receive a tax receipt.


Thank you for reading our blog! Feel free to leave a comment with your feedback and/or insights to help us enrich the quality of future posts and cater to the interests of our community of changemakers.


- The CCP Team



Sources

  1. Alexander, L. (2020, July 23). Homelessness in Kenya. The Borgen Project. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://borgenproject.org/tag/homelessness-in-kenya/#:~:text=There%20are%20an%20estimated%20250%20organizations%20in%20Kenya,build%20affordable%20housing%20for%20low-income%20families%20battling%20homelessness

  2. California will use state properties as homeless shelters. World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/02/california-homeless-housing/

  3. Canada, I. (2022, June 30). Government of Canada. Infrastructure Canada. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/homelessness-sans-abri/index-eng.html

  4. Hilda L. Solis cares for the first village. VESTA Modular. (2022, August 24). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://vestamodular.com/project/hilda-l-solis-care-first-village/

  5. Home. 14Trees. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.14trees.com/

  6. Housing First Scheme in Finland: Y-Foundation (Y-Säätiö). Y. (2023, January 3). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://ysaatio.fi/en/housing-first-finland

  7. Housing poverty in Malawi: Fighting diseases & joblessness with homes. Habitat for Humanity GB. (2022, July 14). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.habitatforhumanity.org.uk/country/malawi/

  8. Nyawira, S. (2021, January 26). Forty percent of Kenyans live in extreme poverty - world bank. The Star. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.the-star.co.ke/business/kenya/2021-01-26-forty-per-cent-of-kenyans-live-in-extreme-poverty-world-bank/

  9. Preventing homelessness in Scotland - crisis. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.crisis.org.uk/media/244558/preventing-homelessness-in-scotland.pdf

  10. Thelwell, K. (2022, April 28). 6 facts about poverty in Malawi. The Borgen Project. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://borgenproject.org/poverty-in-malawi/

  11. There are 1.77 million homeless in India, but the state is blind to them. Hindustan Times. (2017, September 17). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/editorials/there-are-1-77-million-homeless-in-india-but-the-state-is-blind-to-them/story-ypUh96FiXSxfZbrts88GnK.html

  12. These innovative projects are tackling homelessness around the world. World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/10/innovative-projects-tackling-homelessness-around-the-world/

  13. United Nations. (n.d.). First-ever United Nations resolution on homelessness | DISD. United Nations. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.un.org/development/desa/dspd/2020/03/resolution-homelessness/

  14. USAFacts. (n.d.). Homeless population. USAFacts. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://usafacts.org/data/topics/people-society/poverty/public-housing/homeless-population/

  15. Who we are. Nomodic. (2022, December 16). Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.nomodic.com/who-we-are/




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