4 Cities Leading the Way in Homeless Innovation

The blight of homeless is everywhere we look.  From rich countries with high standards to developing nations with issues in providing some of the basic human needs.  Solving these issues will never be easy.  It will take a lot of work and innovation on the part of governments, private citizens and corporations.  Below are a few good examples of cities with innovation homeless programs taking plac.e

  1. Helsinki, Finland:  It is hard to pick a city in Finland but lets go with the capital.  The city and the country truly adopted the housing first model.  In lieu of asking chronically homeless to step through multiple programs that make them try curing drug and alcohol dependency, the Finish give housing.  It sounds simple, but many countries are still against using this model.  The result has been a shrinking homeless population in Finland.  Why social systems do tend to be stronger in this country then the USA or the UK, they are still suffering from budget cuts and a shortage of housing.   Finland’s commitment to housing first is a model for other cities across the USA to follow.
  2. Salt Lake City, Utah:  A city in the USA being highlighted for homeless prevention?  Yes it is true.  In 2005, the state set out a goal of eliminating homelessness in 10 years.  It decreased homelessness by 91% which is quite impressive. A pilot project kick-started things housing 17 of the hardest to house homeless in Salt-Lake City.  When that went well, they expanded.  One thing that has helped is the Church of Latter day Saints which is a big believer of the housing first model.  The state is small and the problem is much more contained then a densely populated state like California.  All and all, the work done in Salt Lake City and the state of Utah is quite impressive.
  3. Berlin, Germany:  There is a surprising amount of homelessness in Berlin.  However; there are some active shelters and organizations doing innovative work around the field of homelessness.   One of my favorite agencies in Berlin is Querstadtein.  It is a company that allows homeless people to give tours of the city they have come to know.  What we see as a city, or street or square, some homeless see as home.  The tours and the people really give you a different perspective.  I took one in German and it was eye opening.   I recommend you try it. berlin33.jpg
  4. San Diego, California:   Project 25 in San Diego aimed to take the 25 most costly homeless persons off the street and simply house them.   The project which started in 2010 met its goals and ended up saving the community over $2 million dollars.  How did they measure this?  They looked at the costs of jails, prisons, medical expenses, hospital stays and medical rides.   To find out more detail, read this article and listen to this podcast. 


The blight of homelessness is felt around the world.  complicating the matter is the fact that the definition of homelessness must be understood in a country by country context.  What is acceptable housing in India may have to differ from what works in Sweden.  Cities are the front line in the war against homelessness.  Innovation, hard work and dedication will be the necessary ingredients to helping reduce this terrible plight.

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