Housing First: Austria to provide thousands of unhoused persons with homes - Squirrel News

Housing First: Austria to provide thousands of unhoused persons with homes

Buildings in Vienna, Austria

An initiative long demanded by experts is set to address homelessness in Austria: Over 1,000 homeless people are to be given their own flat by September 2024. 

The scheme is set to address homelessness in Austria as the Ministry of Social Affairs embarks on a transition to the Housing First model. Following Finland’s success in reducing homelessness by over 50% since 2008, Austria aims to provide over 1,000 homeless individuals with their own flats within the next twelve months, backed by a 6.6 million-euro investment, Austrian newspaper Der Standard reports.

Homelessness “unacceptable in a country like Austria”

Departing from the conventional approach of emergency accommodation or transitional housing, this model ensures that homeless individuals are directly allocated their own flats. Under this programme, recipients sign their tenancy agreements and independently cover rent expenses. Social workers offer ongoing support, addressing crises and assisting with financial and daily life challenges within the confines of their new homes, with the overarching goal of facilitating a sustained escape from homelessness.

To support the initiative, non-profit building associations will contribute 512 affordable flats over the course of the coming year. The allocated funds from the Ministry of Social Affairs will cover financing contributions, relocation costs, and deposits for the beneficiaries. Social Affairs Minister Rauch emphasised the urgency of combating homelessness, calling it “unacceptable in a country like Austria”, as reported by Der Standard.

An alternative to emergency accommodation or transitional housing centres

While the number of homeless people is rising in most EU countries, it is falling in Finland. Since the concept was introduced in 2008, the number of people affected has more than halved from 8,260 to 3,686 in 2022. Housing is considered a basic right in Finland, without conditions. 

Building on the success of organisations such as Vinzidach in Styria, Salzburg, and Neunerimmo in Vienna, the Housing First model, originally from the USA, has proven effective. Salzburg, for instance, experienced only three evictions out of 100 housing allocations in nine years, boasting a remarkable success rate of 97%.

One-third of Vienna’s homeless population under 30 years old

The scope of homelessness in Austria is underscored by the fact that 20,000 individuals currently lack shelter, a number reminiscent of Finland’s situation in the 1980s. Vienna, hosting 60% of the affected population, faces a particularly high rate of homeless youth, with one-third of those impacted being under 30 years old. The Association of Viennese Homeless Assistance highlights the underreporting of cases, emphasising that only those seeking help can be officially recorded.

As part of a collaborative effort, 25 social organisations throughout Austria are participating in the Housing First project, implemented across seven federal states, excluding Tyrol and Vorarlberg, which will feature separate projects.

Photo: Reza Bina / Unsplash (CC0)

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