Homelessness is a global issue and perhaps surprisingly to some, it even occurs in developed countries. For instance, an estimated 500,000 people go homeless on any given night in the U.S. Homelessness is a difficult problem to tackle because it can arise as a result of many different and complex factors. These variables include housing affordability, drug use, racial or gender discrimination, domestic abuse, loss of jobs and more. With such a plethora of causes, it can seem daunting, if not impossible to handle.
However, some countries in the developed world (as well as undeveloped nations) have done a good job of reducing homelessness. Homelessness in Liechtenstein is virtually nonexistent. Liechtenstein is a small country in the mountains between Switzerland and Austria, spanning 25 kilometers and boasting a population of just less than 40,000. While there are hardly enough homeless shelters in the U.S., Liechtenstein had to shut one down due to its lack of use. Liechtenstein has taken several policy initiatives that help it achieve this level of success in eradicating homelessness.
Addressing Homelessness in Liechtenstein
To prevent homelessness in Liechtenstein, the government provides housing subsidies to its citizens. The lack of affordable housing is perhaps the single greatest cause of homelessness, worldwide. With more and more people looking for housing, the value of land increases substantially. In this same vein, even the cost of renting a home has increased. This, in turn, creates a housing crisis for those with lower incomes. When these vulnerable populations are unable to afford a place to live, many consequently turn to the streets for shelter.
Notably, Liechtenstein mitigates this problem using several measures to ensure that everyone has access to housing. There are subsidies for the purchase of private homes and the construction and renovation of houses are also promoted by the government of Liechtenstein. For families whose income falls below a certain line, the government will provide financial alleviation in the form of rental subsidies.
Unemployment is another common cause of homelessness. Moreover, Liechtenstein has done a good job retaining high employment rates. Liechtenstein is a very small country; so small that the amount of jobs in the country is greater than its total population. Due to this, unemployment levels are perpetually low. The majority of jobs in Liechtenstein are in the financial and manufacturing sectors. This, in turn, makes the country an attractive place to work. Furthermore, Liechtenstein is one of the most industrialized countries in the world.
Homelessness in Liechtenstein does not exist for two main reasons: (1) low unemployment and (2) its government policies that make housing affordable for everyone. It is encouraging to see that there are places in the world today where homelessness does not exist and people are enabled to thrive. While each country has its unique issues to resolve and challenges to overcome, they will all strive to fight against poverty and eliminate homelessness within their borders. In that regard, the world can look toward Liechtenstein’s policies and practices as an example.
– Alison Ding
Photo: Wikimedia Commons