How Finland is Eradicating Its Homelessness Problem

There are more than a million empty homes in Canada and on any given night at least 35,000 Canadians are homeless. They pack into overflowing, often dangerous, shelters or they hunker down outside, hoping the elements will be kinder to them than the conditions indoor.

In the 1980s, a Canadian psychologist working in New York had an idea: maybe the best way to solve the problem of homelessness was to give people homes. Sam Tsemberis was one of the earliest proponents of a model known as Housing First. The idea was viewed as outlandish and unworkable.

Skeptics argued that complex issues like addiction and mental health had to be addressed first before someone was a suitable candidate for long-term housing. How would the cost be justified to hardworking taxpayers?

But the idea has caught on. Housing First projects have appeared in municipalities across Asia, Europe and North America, including Medicine Hat, Alta. Now, Finland has become the first country to adopt a national housing first approach to homelessness.

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Finland’s largest housing nonprofit, the Y-Foundation, has been working in the area of homelessness and social welfare since the 1980s. He was one of the architects of Housing First — Finland’s national plan. He spoke to The Sunday Edition‘s Michael Enright about how Finland eradicated homelessness. Here are some highlights from their conversation interview.

A home without preconditions

You can call it a principle, a service model or a philosophy; the main thing is treating homeless people like everybody else — people who have the same rights and see housing as a human right. So the housing first principle means that you give a homeless person a home, a flat, or a  rental flat with a contract, without preconditions. You are not required to solve your problems or get sober, for example, to get a permanent home. And then, when you have this home, you can get support to solve your issues. This is a simple basic principle of housing first.

Finland succeeds where the rest of Europe did not

A lot of progress has been made. We now have the lowest number of homeless. Our present government has decided that the rest of the homeless should be halved within the next four years and completely end by 2027.

We have had a constant policy of providing affordable, social housing. The state finances this. And in each new housing area, especially in the big cities, at least 25 per cent of housing must be affordable, social housing. This has kept the supply to a reasonable level. This has been probably the main reason why we don’t have the kind of housing crisis that most European countries have at the moment.

How Housing First works

For example, in Helsinki, there is a service centre for homeless people. You can always go in, no matter your condition. It’s probably the most similar to the shelters in other countries. But it’s the only one, with 52 beds. You discuss your situation with a social worker and they try to arrange housing for you. They make an assessment, find out what your needs are.

Affordable social housing stock is another option. For over 30 years, the Y-Foundation has been buying flats from the private market. We use these flats specifically as rental flats for homeless people.

Maybe the most important structural change in Finland is that we’ve renovated our temporary accommodations in shelters and hostels into supported housing. For example, the last big shelter in Helsinki, run by the Salvation Army, had 250 beds. It was completely renovated in 2012. Now they have 81 independent, modern, apartments in that same building. They also have on-site staff for support. So this structural change has probably been the crucial thing that has led to this trend of decreasing homelessness.

The common thing for all homeless people is that they don’t have a home. Everybody has their own story, their own history. They have their own resources. They may also have their own problems. For that reason, you have to make a very tailor-made plan for people, to provide adequate support.

For example, if you have drug abuse problems, simply providing housing doesn’t solve that kind of issue. You may need rehabilitation, detoxification, etc. These other elements are important. But to get these things done successfully, you must provide permanent housing. That way you can be sure that you are not kicked out the next morning and you can plan your life ahead.

Why the taxpayer argument doesn’t hold up

Keeping people homeless, instead of providing homes for them, is always more expensive for the society. In Finland we have some scientific evaluations of the cost of this program. When a homeless person gets a permanent home, even with support, the cost savings for the society are at least 15,000 Euros per one person per one year. And the cost savings come from different use of different services.

In this study, they looked at the services that homeless people used when they were without a home. They calculated every possible thing: emergency healthcare, police, justice system, etc. They then compared that cost to when people get proper housing. And this was the result. I’m quite sure this kind of cost analysis can also be found for Canada.

Political understanding is crucial

What has been crucial in Finland is that there has been a political understanding and political consensus: this is a national problem that we should solve together. Since 2008, we have had several governments with several different political coalitions. All these governments have decided to continue to work to end homelessness. This kind of political will — that’s the starting point. It doesn’t solve everything but it helps.

I think that it demands politicians who have an understanding of human dignity. It doesn’t require more. In Finland we have a very wide partnership. It has been a collaboration between the state, big cities and big NGOs working together towards the same goal.

Changing public attitude

There are several ways you can affect public attitudes. Facts and research are good starting points. But it’s always important to tell people stories of those whose lives have changed since they got housing. These things have an emotional impact on the general public. If there are willing former homeless people, who would like to tell their stories, this kind of human interest element is very powerful. But, of course there are very clear facts behind how it should be done and why we should speak about housing as human rights issue.

By: Tahiat Mahboob

How Fast Food Reveals Secrets of the Economy

(Image credit: iStock)

From the Pizza Principle to the Waffle House Index, fast food can reveal surprising things about our behaviour and hidden changes in the market.

What is an economist’s favourite food? Burgers, chips and pizza might not immediately come to mind – but the consumption of meals like these can signal changes in people’s economic behaviour. Knowing the price of pizza in New York or the cost of a Big Mac in Beirut can tell market-watchers how the world’s cogs are turning.

The Pizza Principle

In 1980, a New Yorker called Eric Bram noticed that the price of a slice of pizza had matched the cost of a subway ride in the city for nearly 20 years. More recently, commentators have noticed that as the cost of pizza goes up, transit fares often follow. In 2014, data scientist Jared Lander investigated the principle and found that it remains in place. Why is this so? Nobody knows.

The Big Mac and KFC Indices

The price of a Big Mac says a lot about “purchasing power parity” – whether exchange rates mean that a product costs the same in different countries. Credit: Getty Images.

How much will a Big Mac cost you in Lima? Or Abu Dhabi? The answers can tell you a lot about “purchasing power parity (PPP)” – whether exchange rates mean that a product costs the same in different countries. A tool to make this theory more “digestible” was launched by The Economist in 1986.

It allows comparison of several base currencies to others around the world. As they wrote this month: “A Big Mac currently costs $5.06 in America but just 10.75 lira ($2.75) in Turkey, implying that the lira is undervalued.”

Since McDonald’s restaurants aren’t so common in Africa, the market research firm Sagaci Research invented the supplementary “KFC index” to analyse PPP there.

Mars Bars

In 1932, a factory in Slough produced the world’s first Mars bar. Fifty years later, Financial Times writer Nico Colchester pointed out that the price of the confectionary in Britain was neatly correlated with the buying power of pound sterling. By measuring the cost of things in Mars Bars, Colechester noted how graduate salaries had improved slightly in 40 years. Meanwhile, train fares had become cheaper but roast beef dinners in pubs had gone up by more than 60 percent.

Baked Beans and Popcorn

Higher sales of popcorn in cinemas was taken as a sign of economic recovery in Britain following the financial crisis of 2008. Credit: Getty Images.

When financial experts are trying to determine whether an economy is generally in good health, they often look to food products. In 2009, the Odeon cinema company announced an “Odeon Popcorn Index” that it claimed showed higher sales and therefore signs of economic recovery in Britain following the financial crisis of 2008.

And analysts have also scrutinised sales of baked beans, popular when times are tough, as an indicator of how people are responding to periods of economic decline. When baked bean sales fell in 2013, some took it as a sign that the UK economy was in rude health.

French Fries

A fascinating article in the Oregonian in 1998 observed that sales of French fries could be a helpful indicator of trade between America and Asia. This food “leads US industries into foreign markets” wrote Richard Read, thanks to the fact that America exports so many of them (something that remains true today).

And he added that consumption of French fries was also an indicator of how well-developed an Asian economy had become. This meant that when economic trouble in Asia was brewing in the late ’90s, farmers in the US were hit hard.

Waffle House Index

US authorities have used the length of the Waffle House menu to see if supplies at the restaurant are low after hurricanes. Credit: Flickr/Steve Snodgrass.

How bad was that hurricane? The length of a fast-food restaurant’s menu can be a quick guide, it seems. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the United States keeps a check on the length of the menu at Waffle House outlets in the aftermath of natural disasters. If customers are being offered a limited menu, food supplies at the restaurant may be low and it might only have generator power. If the restaurant is closed? “That’s really bad,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate once said.

By: Chris Baraniuk

Source: How Fast Food Reveals Secrets of the Economy

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Related contents:

Food market structures: Overview”. Economic Research Service (USDA).Food Democracy: From consumer to food citizen. Springer. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-981-287-423-8.A Handbook of Food Crime: Immoral and Illegal Practices in the Food Industry and What to Do About Them. Policy Press. pp. 371–. ISBN 978-1-4473-5628-8.

The Industrial Food System”, Food Democracy: From consumer to food citizen, SpringerBriefs in Public Health, Singapore: Springer, pp. 3–11, doi:10.1007/978-981-287-423-8_2, ISBN 978-981-287-423-8, retrieved 26 November 2020Big Food, Food Systems, and Global Health”. PLOS Medicine. 9 (6): e1001242. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001242. ISSN 1549-1676. PMC 3378592. PMID 22723746.

Professional medical organizations and commercial conflicts of interest: ethical issues”. Annals of Family Medicine. 8 (4): 354–358. doi:10.1370/afm.1140. ISSN 1544-1717. PMC 2906531. PMID 20644191.“Reducing global food system emissions key to meeting climate goals”. phys.org. Retrieved 8 December 2020.

Global food system emissions could preclude achieving the 1.5° and 2°C climate change targets”. Science. 370 (6517): 705–708. Bibcode:2020Sci…370..705C. doi:10.1126/science.aba7357. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 33154139. S2CID 226254942. Retrieved 8 December 2020.A sustainable food system for the European Union (PDF). Berlin: SAPEA. p. 39. doi:10.26356/sustainablefood. ISBN 978-3-9820301-7-3.

Sustainable Food Sourcing and Distribution in the Vermont-Regional Food System” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2017. Regulating Food Law: Risk Analysis and the Precautionary Principle as General Principles of EU Food Law. Wageningen Academic Pub. ISBN 9789086861941. Retrieved 22 January 2017.

“Global food industry on course to drive rapid habitat loss – research”. The Guardian. 21 December 2020. Retrieved 17 January 2021.“Current food production systems could mean far-reaching habitat loss”. phys.org. Retrieved 17 January 2021.Proactive conservation to prevent habitat losses to agricultural expansion”. Nature Sustainability. 4 (4): 314–322. doi:10.1038/s41893-020-00656-5. ISSN 2398-9629. S2CID 229346085. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2021.

“Boosting efficiency at the DC”. Grocery Headquarters. Archived from the original on 7 March 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2012.“World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision”. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (United Nations).Innovation spurred by COVID-19 crisis highlights ‘potential of small-scale farmers.

“Amid Pandemic, Local Company Delivering Meat And Fresh, Organic Sustainable Foods”. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 26 May 2020.The Impact of Industry Self-Regulation on the Nutritional Quality of Foods Advertised to Children on Television” (PDF). Children Now.Neat Facts About United States Agriculture Archived 14 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 19 November 2013“Employment by major industry sector”. Bls.gov. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2014.

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What The Vaccine Won’t Solve

While the start of vaccine rollouts offer hope that the worst of the pandemic may be over, its devastating financial impact for many will be felt for a long time to come. In research spanning 18 countries from the Deloitte Consumer Industry Center, we find evidence of continued household financial distress.[i] One in five consumers are spending more than they take in as income. During the course of the pandemic, they are twice as likely to have had their financial situation change for the worse and to indicate that they have cut back on staples like groceries and household goods. 

That can lead to tough choices like dipping into savings, increasing the use of debt or prioritizing which upcoming payments will be missed. Even larger numbers of consumers are worried about this becoming their fate.  Forty percent of all consumers in our study are worried about the amount of their savings and credit card balances.

Since the 2008 Great Recession the divide between more affluent consumers and lower income consumers has grown.[i] Just as the pandemic accelerated the adoption of contactless commerce, video conferencing and home gyms, it also accelerated this bifurcation. The pandemic has created one world among high income people who can work at home and make discretionary purchases, and a second world of people who are more likely to be unemployed and/or more limited in their buying ability. While the pandemic has inconvenienced more affluent consumers, others have experienced a severe economic crisis that is likely to extend for some time.

Economists talk about the “K-shaped” recovery—to describe how different segments have experienced, and will continue to experience, the effects of the pandemic.[ii]Our research shows that the K-shaped recession and recovery are features of many economies and a direct outcome of the pandemic’s acceleration of a long-term change in the labor force.

Globally, the chances of being unemployed were about six times higher among low income workers compared to high earners though that varies by country.  The ratio is higher in the United States (nine times as likely). While in Germany, low-income workers were only four times as likely to be unemployed. The difference is likely the result of Germany’s Kurzarbiet scheme to keep workers attached to their employers (so they aren’t officially unemployed) compared to the U.S. use of unemployment insurance. Similar schemes are set-up in all Western European countries.

With the pandemic, unemployment was, in many cases, spurred on by an inability to work from home. Consistent with World Bank research that finds that “jobs more amenable to WFH are more prevalent among workers with high levels of education, in salaried employment, and among younger workers,”[iii] high income workers in our tracker are almost twice as likely to be working at home as low income workers.[iv] 

Spending Bifurcation

Spending bifurcation is also very clear. We track spending intent on 15 categories of goods and services ranging from groceries to travel. Some of these, like housing and medicines, are essential, or non-discretionary from the point of view of the consumer. Others, like entertainment and electronics, can be more easily postponed or managed without. This is discretionary spending.

Globally, since early May, the difference in discretionary spending intent has widened. At that time, approximately 40% more high-income than low-income households planned to spend more on discretionary goods. By the beginning of January, about twice as many high-income households reported such plans.

Not only are high income households now even more willing to open their wallets for “nice to have” items, they are also a third more willing to pay for the contactless commerce and other forms of convenience accelerated by the pandemic. This differs quite a bit by country.  Germany and the Netherlands lead the way by being three to four times more likely to pay for convenience respectively. And despite the importance of convenience during the pandemic, lower income households are less willing (or able) to pay for it.

How should businesses respond? 

For the past few years, we have advised Retail and other consumer companies to prepare for a corresponding bifurcation between price-based value and value delivered through differentiated product or services.[i] Indeed, priced-based mass merchants and luxury brands fared well while others struggled during the pandemic. Possibly more than ever, companies should urgently refine their focus.

Specifically, they should:

  • Deepen empathy for consumers and employees. Wall Street and Main Street have experienced the pandemic differently. Don’t be fooled by rising indices. Reconnect with and evaluate your investments in your customers and employees to better understand their experiences and needs.
  • Make trust a guiding principle. Trust in institutions overall is in decline, but it is critical to success. Eighty-five percent of customers choose trusted brands over others, compared with only 60% who select brands they don’t trust.[v] Trust has clear impact on financial performance.[vi] Investing in and continuously building mutual trust with consumers can help ensure they come along with you on the journey, even when inevitable shocks occur.  
  • Become more granular in your consumer observations. The standard, historical data relied on pre-pandemic may not capture new consumer realities. Decisions made based on old data models can easily go wrong. While continuing to rely on judgment and instinct, leaders should also get creative in seeking new forms of outside-in real-time consumer, marketplace, competitive, and economic data to inform decisions.
  • Become more precise in your value propositions. Adjust how you segment consumers, prioritize channels, establish product portfolios, position your brands, and deploy service models in ways designed to address your chosen strategy and explicitly avoids getting caught in the shrinking middle. 
  • Be agile with your channels. The shift to digital was already happening, but COVID accelerated consumer adoption. Companies that invested heavily in their digital commerce, services, and offerings pre-pandemic (e.g., mass merchants) shifted faster between channels and fared better than those that did not. Recently, half of consumer company executives said they will be increasingly reliant on online and omnichannel strategies.[vii]

Other contributors to this piece: Steve Rogers, executive director, Deloitte Insights Consumer Industry, Deloitte LLP and Danny Bachman, US Economic Forecaster, Deloitte

[i] The Great Retail Bifurcation, Deloitte Insights

[ii] See Eric Morath, Theo Francis, and Justin, “The covid recovery carves deep divide between haves and have-nots,” Wall Street Journal, October 5 2020.

[iii] Maho Hatayma, Mariana Viollaz and Hernan Winkler, “Who can really work from home,” World Bank blogs, May 28, 2020.

[iv] Deloitte Global State of the Consumer Tracker[i] The Great Retail Bifurcation, Deloitte Insights and “The consumer products bifurcation,” Deloitte Insights

[v] Deloitte Consulting LLP, Deloitte HX TrustIDTM survey, May 2020.

[vi] Stephen M. R. Covey and Donald R. Conant, “The connection between employee trust and financial performance,” Harvard Business Review, July 18, 2018.

[vii] Deloitte 2021 Consumer Products Outlook

Leon Pieters

Leon Pieters is the Consumer Industry leader for Deloitte Global, where he is responsible for overseeing globally four consumer sectors: Automotive; Consumer Products; Retail, Wholesale & Distribution (RWD); and Transportation, Hospitality & Services (THS). Leon is charged with setting the overall strategic direction and go-to-market strategy for the practice.

Anthony Waelter

Anthony Waelter

Anthony is a partner in Risk & Financial Advisory within Deloitte & Touche LLP. He currently serves as both the US Consumer Industry Leader and Advisory Consumer Industry Leader. Previously, he led Advisory’s Finance Transformation practice and is a former member of Deloitte’s cross-business Finance Transformation leadership team. With nearly 30 years providing finance transformation services to multinational clients in the consumer products, manufacturing, transportation, retail and distribution sectors, he focuses on assisting clients with transformational projects involving the development and/or evaluation of finance operations and programs designed to improve financial integrity, compliance and operational effectiveness and efficiency.

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Yahoo Finance

Dr. Cedric Dark, Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine & Board Member with Doctors for America joins Yahoo Finance’s Kristin Myers to break down the latest coronavirus developments as the U.K. authorizes emergency use of the Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine. For 2020 election results please visit: Election results: https://www.yahoo.com/elections Subscribe to Yahoo Finance: https://yhoo.it/2fGu5Bb

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