Homelessness in EstoniaIn the mid-90s and early 2000s, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe, oversaw a housing reform. This reform sought to improve the living conditions for Estonians and reduce the number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Estonia. Here’s the situation today:

6 Facts About Homelessness in Estonia

  1. A small percentage of Estonians are homeless – The Institute of Global Homelessness reported that around 864 Estonians were homeless in 2011, which amounts to 0.06% of the population. However, in 2018, the European Journal of Homelessness estimated that 1.5% of Estonians are homeless, which amounts to between 1,900 and 2,100 people.
  2. Unemployment can be a major influence on homelessness in Estonia – A 2014 study in the European Journal of Homelessness found that 5.5% of Estonians are unemployed (2% of which reside in Tallinn, the capital.)
  3. Alcohol dependency can inhibit self-subsistence – The percentage of Estonians who are homeless with mental health issues is increasing, and some of these issues may result from alcohol dependency, alongside other factors. Alcoholism can make it more difficult for people who are trying to gain self-sufficiency.
  4. Testing (for respiratory diseases such as COVID-19) is insufficient for homeless shelters in many European countries – People in shelters who test positive for airborne illnesses must be isolated, according to a report by members of the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), yet self-isolation is not always easy in shelters. In an Estonian shelter, after one individual in the shelter tested positive for COVID-19, testing was made available for the other residents, and 56% of those who lived in the shelter tested positive as well. FEANTSA argues that “housing must be reaffirmed as a human right” in order to help those who are experiencing homelessness in Estonia.
  5. Certain shelters and programs provide the homeless with residential services – Shelters like the one in Nõmme District in Tallinn provide the homeless in Estonia with a resocialization plan where residents work on gaining work skills to be able to afford residential spaces of their own. Half of the shelter’s residents pay their own fees that they gained from employment to stay in the shelter, and if a resident cannot pay, the city pays on his/her behalf. This plan lasts for six months, though residents are allowed to stay for longer if they aren’t able to afford their own place of residence at that time.
  6. Housing has improved for Estonians since the 90s – In 1989, there were more households in Estonia than there were residences. From 1994-2004, a housing reform took place, and by 2011, the number of residences was 16% greater than the number of households. Though factors such as rising rental costs can still make it hard for a struggling family to afford to live in their own residence, living conditions have improved overall.

As Estonia’s government has been working to reduce homelessness, programs that have helped reform housing have been effective in reducing homelessness in Estonia since the 1990s. Yet there is still work to be done – lessening the situations which cause homelessness is imperative.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash