Finishing the homeless problem

With one Castlemaine agency advocating tiny houses as a means to help solve homelessness, local government leaders on Friday lunched with an international social housing expert to hear about how Finland has all but eradicated rough sleeping.
Finnish-based Juhah Kaakinen is chief executive of the Y-Foundation, which provides 16,300 permanent low-cost flats to homeless people in Finland – a move that has seen it become the only country in Europe where the number of homeless people has declined in recent years.
After attending last week’s National Homelessness Conference in Melbourne as a keynote speaker, Mr Kaakinen visited Castlemaine and met with Mount Alexander Shire CEO Darren Fuzzard, mayor Cr Bronwen Machin – and also Castlemaine Housing Service staff who hope to see tiny housing developed to address the issue locally.
The Housing First model that Mr Kaakinen’s Y-Foundation has introduced has proven hugely successful in Finland with 13 per cent of that country’s total housing stock now dedicated to social housing and 20 per cent of all new housing developments set aside for social housing.
Mr Kaakinen – who was on his way to Sydney to participate in a live discussion for SBS’s Filthy Rich and Homeless TV series – told the Midland Express that part of what was needed was a fundamental shift from regarding housing as a means of wealth accrual and investment to regarding it as a basic human right.
“It should be a social right that you have a stable, secure, safe, affordable rental home of your own, and then if you need support that support is provided, so these are the basic elements,” he said.
The need for all levels of government to work together is also fundamental, as is the physical provision of the housing itself.
“You can’t have this Housing First model without having housing first,” Mr Kaakinen said.
Castlemaine Housing Service team leader Michael McMahon believes development of tiny housing would help provide the housing needed to address the issue locally.
“It’s a serious issue. It’s a state-wide and a national issue and we’re no different,” he said.
“We’ve got some rough sleepers. We’ve got some people who are in overcrowded conditions. We’ve got some people who can’t afford private rentals and a lot of people who are at risk of homelessness as well.”
Mayor Cr Bronwen Machin was supportive of the tiny house suggestion and said one thing she’d like to see happen would be the community getting together to raise $300,000 to help Michael and his crew get the tiny houses happening.
“As a local government we can help with planning, which we’re trying to do here,” Cr Machin said.
“As they’re thinking about their tiny home solution we can also identify our own land to see whether that’s going to help, and we’re going through a process right now with a grant from the state government, to identify our own land and how useful it would be for affordable social housing.”

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