Although Denmark is known for its strong welfare state, homelessness is still a prevalent problem. The small country has taken steps to reduce the number of people that are homeless and have shared these steps with other European countries. However, there are still many ways that the country can continue to reduce its homeless population.

Homelessness in Denmark

  1. Homelessness in Denmark is growing. Approximately 0.12% of the Danish population suffers from acute homelessness and homelessness has increased over the past decade by 33%. The majority of those who are homeless are in Copenhagen.
  2. Denmark pioneered a program to end homelessness. From 2009 to 2013, the Danish Government developed a homelessness strategy called Housing First with four main goals. The goals were; no person should live a life on the street, young people should have an alternative solution to homeless hostels; a stay in a care home or shelter should last no longer than 3-4 months, those who can move out on their own with the necessary support should; and prison releases and hospital discharges should only happen when there is an accommodation solution in place.
  3. Homelessness in Copenhagen is de facto illegal. Denmark has not outlawed homelessness per se, but it has banned ‘insecurity creating camps’. However, Danish law enforcement has taken this to mean that homeless people create insecurity for those around them; rather than focusing on the insecurity homeless people might face they often give the homeless large fines. Jurist Maja Løvbjerg Hansen states that the homeless “may be in a hostel or shelter if they happen to stay there. They may be doing some shopping. They may be going to a doctor or a nurse. If they have work, they can do their job, and if they are in treatment for taking drugs or alcohol, they can come to town for the relevant meetings. But the ban means that they are not allowed to stay on the street or walk around without a purpose in the city – the zone – that they are banned from.”
  4. Youth are largely affected by homelessness. Over one-third of those who are homeless are under 30 and struggle to rise out of poverty because of current economic instability. In many cases, those that are homeless have mental illnesses or drug addictions, which requires additional assistance. Additionally, about 5% of all Danish children will be placed in out-of-home care. According to the Danish Center for Social Science Research, around 40% of these children will become homeless.
  5. Denmark has a newspaper produced by formerly homeless people. Hus Forbi was founded in August 1996 to give a voice to the homeless, which are typically excluded from the conversation surrounding Dutch politics. Homeless people also sell the newspaper as a legal way to make money.

Several NGOs help the Danish homeless population. The Alliance, A Home for All advocates for homeless people and works to create solutions for homeless people. Project UDENFOR also works to help the homeless by participating in on-the-street based work and through spreading knowledge collected through research. Additionally, a large number of homeless shelters throughout Denmark are operated by a number of NGOs to fill in the gaps that the Danish welfare state cannot cover.

– Julia Canzano

Photo: BigFoto