To prevent and combat homelessness is a main priority in Norwegian housing policy.
Since 2001 combating homelessness has been a prioritised task for the Norwegian State Housing Bank (NSHB). Our work in this area plays a key role in social housing policy. This includes trying to prevent homelessness from occurring as well as working towards securing permanent housing for the homeless. The NSHB cooperates with a number of parties in the welfare sector in order to reduce homelessness. This includes reducing the amount of evictions, less use of temporary dwellings as well as a systematic social housing-policy approach. These factors are all dealt with by parties in the welfare sector as wll. The municipalities are the NSHB's most important partner in this area.
The NSHB's principles regarding this work include.
You must be offered a place to live:
- even if you are financially insecure
- even if you decline treatment
- even if you display symptoms of substance abuse
- even if you aren't sober
- Adequate housing shouldn't be a reward.
- Housing is a human right.
The NSHB finances housing through loans and grants and will give a housing allowance to households with low incomes. In addition it is possible to apply for research funds.
The NSHB has gained expertise in the field of social housing-policy and works continually to improve our knowledge in the social housing-policy area. As a consequence the NSHB is an important knowledge provider to municipalities and NGO's.
Homelessness project 2001 -2004
The project developed methods and models for housing the homeless in the seven largest cities in Norway. This work was carried out by the municipalities aided by the NGO's who provided the housing with extra care facilities. 400 of the homelessness that had been the most difficult to place, moved into various forms of housing with special care facilities.
Most of the homeless people moved into rented accommodation owned by the municipality in special communities. During the course of the project the municipalities increasingly started to offer this group flats in ordinary living areas. Employees offering additional housing services worked at service hubs, often connected to housing that was located together. Staff was on call for 24 hours a day during the first months of the project but availability was later reduced.
The use of independent housing, a copy of the Danish small housing model was only carried out in one city in Norway during the project period. However, later this form of housing has been developed by almost all the cities that participated in the project.
Two years after the project ended, almost all the housing was still being used by this group, and the additional housing services were still on offer. 50 percent of people who had formerly been homeless lived in their allocated housing, whereas 37 percent had, according to plan, moved to similar or better accommodation.
Apart from the individual measures taken as a result of the project, the most important result was that the issue of homelessness was put firmly on the political agenda. This was the case both for the municipalities that participated in the project directly, but also in surrounding regions which learnt from the experiences made.
The national strategy “The pathway to a permanent home” 2005-2008
The strategy “The pathway to a permanent home” is based on findings from the Homelessness project. The main goal of the project was to
- Counteract homelessness
- Ensure that no one should be offered an emergency shelter place without a quality agreement
- Ensure that homeless people were quickly offered permanent accommodation
The strategy’s performance targets were:
- Reduce the number of eviction petitions by 50 percent
- Reduce the number of evictions by 30 percent
- No one should be required to stay at an emergency shelter upon release from prison or an institution
- Ensure quality agreements for emergency shelter
- No one should be required to reside for more than three months in emergency accommodation
All of Norway’s large municipalities and many smaller ones embraced the strategy. The NSHB funded research with the aim to develop a new work methodology in this area and the Norwegain Directorate of Health funded the follow-up research needed.
The importance of taking an interdisciplinary approach to housing the homelessness was stressed. The findings also showed the importance of having a support scheme in place to help the homelessness settle in and remain in housing. Interdisciplinary cooperation was mostly carried out by each municipality, but a national and regional cooperation was also started. This was an attempt to streamline this work in all the municipalities.
After the strategy period
The work to combat and prevent homelessness has continued along the same lines after the strategy period ended.
From 2008 the work to combat homelessness among youth has been stressed more. This is due to warnings from the municipalities regarding this group, and this view was later confirmed by the most recent homelessness survey. The survey showed that homelessness among youth was on the rise, especially in the medium sized and smaller municipalities. At the same time homelessness as a whole was decreasing in the biggest municipalities. The work to reduce homelessness for this group necessitates more co-operation with the educational sector and an increased focus on children and youth both locally and nationally.
Since 2009/10 a purposeful effort was made to implement social housing-policy development programs in municipalities which were experiencing special challenges in this area. These programs last 3-5 years. The goal is to develop a comprehensive and adequate support scheme for the homelessness.
Homelessness surveys have been carried out in Norway in 1996, 2003, 2005 and 2008. The surveys have helped to identify the homeless as a group, both when it comes to gender and age and in the context of family size and health problems. The surveys show that most homeless are single men. Many have a substance abuse problem and or psychological problems. However there are also homelessness people who don’t fall into any of these categories.
For more information see the report: The pathway to a permanent home http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/KRD/Vedlegg/BOBY/bostedslose/the_pathway_to_a_permanent_home_nibr_report_2008_15.pdf