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Survey: Homelessness down by nearly a third in past decade

Tallinn deputy mayor Betina Beškina, who has the responsibility for the capital's social affairs and healthcare .
Tallinn deputy mayor Betina Beškina, who has the responsibility for the capital's social affairs and healthcare . Source: Tallinn City Government office.

Homelessness in the Estonian capital has fallen by close to a third in the past decade, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by the Tallinn Social Work Center (Tallinna sotsiaaltöö keskus), a city-run body, reported 827 homeless people in Tallinn in October last year, around 400 fewer than in October 2011. The number of homeless children fell by 80 over the same time-frame.

Tallinn Deputy Mayor Betina Beškina (Center), responsible for social issues and healthcare, said: "We had assumed that the number of homeless people had fallen compared with survey results nine years ago, and we are pleased to say that this is indeed the case, and with a significant difference."

The survey was conducted between August 2020 and June of this year, Beškina said, with the fall in numbers of people literally living on the street even larger than the overall fall in homelessness.

She said: "The number of homeless people on the street has decreased by 60-70 people, or almost 44 percent, and 82 homeless people were living on the street and in shelters," adding that most encouraging was the fact that the number of homeless people with children has fallen the most, out of all categories.

Another factor is that individuals previously on waiting lists for social housing have since been allocated living space, Beškina said. The accommodation is operated by the private sector, with support provided by city authorities for paying the rent.

The decline in the number of derelict houses and other buildings in Tallinn, and advice from the Tallinn Family Center, were also factors, Beškina said.

The 2011 survey found that causes of homelessness such as evictions and forced sales had reduced their influence, thanks in part to wider use of preventive services such as debt and financial counseling.

The survey considered gender and age of subjects, residence location now and in the past, causes of homelessness, how long individuals had been homeless, and work and study status, along other indicators.

The breakdown of the family was the most cited reason for becoming homeless, with domestic violence the primary cause in around a dozen cases.

Unemployment, rent arrears, eviction, alcohol abuse and physical and mental health issues were also listed as causes.

Solutions suggested included developing day centers and accommodation centers and other services, including the opening times of such facilities.

Kersti Poldemaa, director at the Tallinn Social Work Center also said the overall decline had been thanks to an improvement in provision of services, adding that the fall in numbers has to be offset against data which suggests both the average length of time of homelessness had risen, and the average age of homeless people had fallen.

Both people living on the streets and those using accommodation centers were polled, as well as those sheltering in abandoned buildings. The data was collated with data from other relevant surveys and statistics, BNS reports.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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