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Unveiling the Invisible Homelessness Crisis in Sweden

Losing the Homefront: The Invisible Homelessness in Sweden

Many of us living in Sweden already know that it’s not all “fika” delights and winter wonderlands. One issue that lurks just beneath Sweden’s immaculate image is homelessness. But did you know that it’s more widespread than what the official stats show?

Homelessness Behind the Curtains

Sweden’s City Missions agency (Sveriges Stadsmissioner) recently revealed in a report that the homeless crisis is graver than we think. Many Swedes, including children and families, don’t have a stable place to call home, while evictions are on the rise. But they don’t show up in the official homelessness figures, meaning we don’t get the full picture.

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According to Sweden’s City Missions, these are individuals trapped in an ‘invisible homelessness’ situation. They’re lacking a secure, long-term home, but unfortunately don’t receive the necessary support or acknowledgment from the society thus remaining hidden.

This could include those evicted, victims of domestic violence, people burdened by debts, or anyone unable to afford a home themselves. These are everyday people we might cross paths with, but who are unnoticed because they’re not typically what we picture when we think of homelessness.

“These are people we meet daily and who do not receive help from society,” says Åsa Paborn, spokesperson for homelessness at the Sweden City Missions.

A Strategic Perspective

The National Board of Health and Welfare is mapping out homelessness in Sweden as part of the national homelessness strategy adopted in 2022. This report will be out later this month.

However, the City Missions says it will miss many of the vulnerable, arguing that the definitions of homelessness are too narrow. The latest data on national homelessness is from 2017, with 33,000 people reported to be in homelessness conditions. This figure does not tell the whole story.

“To be able to do something about the problem, we must see the whole problem. Having a permanent and long-term home is decisive for so much in life. Housing and social politics must be linked up more,” says Åsa Paborn.

Proposed Remedies

To tackle this, the City Missions proposes several recommendations for decision-makers at both national and municipal levels. One suggestion is to implement the ‘Housing First’ policy in more municipalities, which involves giving homeless individuals permanent housing, without any conditions such as being drug-free or working.

As it stands, only 40 municipalities use this, despite its proven success. Among other recommendations, working more to prevent evictions and involving social services in urban planning, is proposed.

Reality Check

The report by the City Missions identifies three types of individuals in invisible homelessness:

– A pensioned widower having payment remarks, who can’t get a first-hand contract and temporarily lives in a friend’s summer house.
– A single woman with children who has left a destructive relationship. She has a job but no permanent housing, depending on expensive second and third-hand contracts.
– A working refugee couple who received housing aid when they arrived in Sweden, but lack queue time for housing and capital.

These stories mirror the lives of everyday people, stripped of the security of a stable address. Let’s hope their plight, now unlocked from the shadows, helps in creating strategies that shelter all Swedes in the warmth of a home.

Sweden is an amazing place to live in, but there’s always room to make it better. And addressing invisible homelessness is a step in the right direction.

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