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Dallapénpuisto in Helsnki’s Kallio district was warmed with hot food, compassion, and engagement as a part of asunnottomien yö (The Night of the Homeless) on Saturday evening. As of October 17th, 2002, the date has been declared by the United Nations as the day against poverty and social exclusion. Fittingly, it aligns with the core tenant of the organisers of asunnottomien yö: everyone’s basic right to permanent residence – a home of one’s own.
The annual night of the homeless is observed by twenty municipalities across Finland, ultimately drawing attention to the problems of homelessness. Churches open their doors for the night, free hot food is provided alongside with games, blankets, and even individual tents as shelter. In Dallapénpuisto there was an official programme from 17:00 following the event kickoff at Vaasanaukio, including a panel discussion, music / performance, speeches, and even a visit by the President, Sauli Niinistö.
At the end of 2014 there were an estimated 7,107 homeless people in Finland, yet the total amount of homeless cannot completely be accounted for within these figures. Of this number nearly 1,500 are immigrants, and their proportion has risen in recent years. In light of Helsinki’s housing affordability, the debate surrounding asunnottomien yö encompasses prices of home and afflictions of the homeless, as well as attempting to acknowledge the five key tenets of the event organisers:
We believe that homelessness is a national disgrace.
The reasons for homelessness are complex and it is sometimes difficult to differentiate the cause from the consequence. Because of this, people under the threat of alienation often become actively excluded.
We demand compliance with the Finnish Constitution according to which every person should be guaranteed the right to domicile.
Our compassion and active support is with the most unprivileged.
We stress cooperation beyond political or religious boundaries.
Subsequently, the goals to be achieved are:
to reach zero tolerance in most municipalities in dealing with homelessness so that it will not be tolerated under any circumstances
to monitor the carrying out of The Scheme of Reducing Homelessness in, and
to demand the state to draw up and execute a scheme to abolish homelessness.
In spite of the complications of homelessness in Finland, it is one of the few EU countries where homelessness has decreased overall. The night of the homeless citizens’ movement was supported by multiple sponsors, including EHYT (The Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention), Helsinki City Youth Affairs, and The Finnish Food Workers’ Union.
Sources: YLE News, http://asunnottomienyo.fi