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Homeless and young in Helsinki
by Thanos Kalamidas
2011-10-18 07:20:00
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Often while browsing the news there is something that follows me in the back of my mind all day and occasionally I feel somehow forced by some kind of inner power to check again and again what I read somehow finding hard to believe what was written. And today this had to do with something that I’ve read in the Finnish news and I have to admit that I find really hard to accept. So, according the Finnish Youth Housing Association there are over 640 homeless young adults in the greater Helsinki area. And yes I’m talking about the Nordic capital, a few hundred miles from the arctic cycle with temperatures during the winter that reach -27 Celsius. And homeless young adults? If the word homeless bring pain then the words young adults bring desperation.

And to make things worst the association mentions that these figures might not represent the real picture and just one third of the real number associating the number with the fact that a lot of them stay temporary with friends or relatives moving from house to house and hopefully a number of them gradually finds a house to live. But think again we are talking about young people most likely in the age of 19 to 26 years-old not be able to cover basic their needs and that in the most productive age. Think the reasoning behind this fact, high rents, limited affordable houses and finally unemployment. And one more thing, what leads a boy or a girl of that age to rather live in the streets even in the freezing cold and not going back to his parents?

Can you see what I mean? Is like the questions are pregnant and one brings the next with any answers to follow and perhaps for other countries the number might sound low but I never really understood what makes the thousands more important that the hundred and if it depends on the number to see that there is a problem and do something about it. And when it comes to homeless young adults I think that the problem like the questions I mentioned before is pregnant and there is always another one behind that has to be covered.

Before we dramatise everything it is natural that a big number of these young people just want to go away from home and find their independence beyond the family’s embrace – sometimes strangling – or even trying to fulfil a dream. In someway this is not only acceptable but also desirable but under the circumstances that this young person will be able to find an affordable base and not in the name of independence from the family find themselves dependant from other situations that sometimes – hopefully rarely and exceptionally – have bad ending, again the problem that brings another problem and more questions.

In the case that they have a job they might earn something just over 1100 Euros a month but the last time I checked my self in my neighbourhood in Helsinki a studio 21 square meters was for 600 Euros for rent and because it was very close to me I was shocked from the number of people who apply and came to visit it. Take out rent; cost of life, bills, transportation and everything what is left makes you wander how they can afford this flat and I was not surprised at all to see couples visiting the place considering that they both work.

And if they are unemployed this is another story all together. Of course the Finnish state is one of the last welfare states that offers a reasonable unemployment benefit and housing help benefits but are 400 Euros a month enough? Housing cost in Helsinki and the wider Helsinki area has reached unbelievable heights compared to other European cities and comparing with people’s income, according to economists housing should never cover more than two fifths of the monthly income. Remembering the 21 square meters studio make your own calculations.

And yes beyond a house it is natural for a young person to have more demands from life from just a roof and four walls and enough income to pay the rent and buy dinner. And then it comes the next, how a young person returns home defended and admitting in his or hers beginning that he/she lost. Egoism is part of the youth and most of the time a motivation but it can also turn into a nemesis and this is the last part of the article that really brought me shivers. The number of long-term young homeless people in Finland is officially around 300. Long-term young homeless? This is the part I’m speechless.

Now I bet the True Finns will blame the immigrants but at the moment they are after another mission to close down the office of the Minority Ombudsman, which addresses discrimination related to ethnic minorities and foreigners in Finland and the other parties are getting ready for the presidential elections blaming Greece for the economy and the immigration for the unemployment but in the meantime the number of 640 homeless young adults keeps increasing unfortunately daily.

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