The Hietaniemenkatu Service Centre provides round-the-clock services for the homeless. More and more foreigners may have to spend the night on the streets of Helsinki in the future, after local authorities in early July revised instructions issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, stipulating that homeless people ineligible for social assistance must only be provided emergency support.

A Finnish residence permit is a precondition for eligibility for social assistance.

Thereby, homeless people without a residence permit staying at the Hietaniemenkatu Service Centre in Helsinki, for example, must be referred to other services after a stay of few nights.

Sanna Sunikka, the director of the centre, states that the new instructions were rushed through and that the centre was consequently unable to fully prepare for them. “The problem has always been that there are not enough places. Now, even more people unable to apply for rental assistance will come here,” she says.

Adopted on Monday, the new instructions are part of a project to revise the eligibility conditions for social assistance.

According to Sunikka, the instructions will increase the workload of the centre. “We're baffled by this. We didn't take part in preparing the instructions,” she highlights.

Maarit Sulavuori, who represented Helsinki in the negotiations, argues that the earlier instructions were ambiguous and reminds that the revision is only an attempt to ensure no one stays in emergency housing for too long. “Emergency housing cannot be the solution. It'll still be possible to spend two nights in the case of an emergency, but then you must clarify whether you want to return to your home country or can find a solution to finance your residence,” she explains.

Virve Rissanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva