the KOAN method

Reading List

131 – Mahwish Moiz. Cities That Have Solved Homelessness

Moiz, Mahwish. “Cities That Have Solved Homelessness.” CAUF Society.
December 15, 2022.

Homelessness is a global crisis. A wide range of cities across the world struggle with it, with some doing better than others. According to estimates, there are around 150 million people homeless worldwide.

To put that into perspective, 2% of the world’s population is homeless. As cities grow, the number of homeless people does too. But Counting the homeless is daunting and expensive. So only a handful of cities are doing so currently. These cities are ones that are actively working on solving the problem. Below are 4 cities that have solved homelessness almost completely.


4 cities have almost completely solved homelessness in the US and Europe.

Vienna, Austria

Homelessness in Europe has been declining for a decade. Two key cities in Europe have solved homelessness by adopting a housing first scheme.

The first city that has solved homelessness is the capital of Austria: Vienna. This European city supports the impoverished masses by offering affordable housing for all. The city offers these housing projects in key downtown locations, allowing for convenient access to public transportation.

Helsinki, Finland

The video above explains how no one sleeps on the streets in Finland.

Another European city with an impressive mission to end homelessness is Helsinki, Finland. The Finnish capital is famous for its “Housing First” principle, a policy in which the government offers unconditional housing for all.

To put this into perspective, cities that do not abide by the housing first principle usually want the homeless to meet certain conditions and criteria before being made eligible for permanent housing.  An individual who is suffering from, for example, substance abuse, must first complete an intensive drug rehabilitation program before qualifying for public housing.

But due to its firm belief in the housing first initiative, Helsinki has no such requirements. It provides permanent housing to the homeless unconditionally, helping them through their problems after the fact. This model has been a godsend for homelessness in Finland. The country is the only one of two in Europe where homelessness is declining. This speaks volumes about the success of the housing first model.

Columbus, Ohio, and Salt Lake City, Utah

A couple of American cities have implemented the Housing First approach as well. These include Columbus, Ohio, and Salt Lake City.

Columbus has a 70 percent success rate for housing the homeless. Meanwhile, the state of Utah has seen a 91 percent drop in homelessness between 2005 and 2015.


Each of these cities has been proactive in solving the homelessness problem. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these cities has attempted to solve homelessness completely.


Let’s consider Vienna’s attempt in solving homelessness. Even since the days of World War Two, the capital of Austria has housed the homeless in large, luxurious complexes. The Country’s federal government is estimated to spend over $700 million on housing. The subsidized housing in Vienna is said to be so inexpensive and so needed by its residents that 60 percent of the city’s population lives in them. Vienna also owns a lot of land, land that is used to develop many housing projects for the homeless.

Helsinki, Finland

Like in much of the rest of the world, throughout its history, Finland, lacked affordable housing. In the last 20 years, however, the Finnish capital of Helsinki initiated a radical attempt to solve homelessness completely.

It began by getting rid of homeless shelters, arguing that these housing solutions only provide short-term relief to the homeless. They then focused primarily on permanent housing solutions instead. Housing accommodations were to be arranged unconditionally.

The reason is the people of Helsinki realized that many people are homeless because of their inability to deal with their problems. This deprives them of shelter for most of their lives. Thus, reasoned the Finnish, it is better to provide the homeless with housing up-front, housing up-front before helping the homeless through their struggles. This realization gave birth to the Housing First Scheme.

Under the Housing First Scheme, homeless people need not meet any criteria to qualify for housing. Even if they are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, they can get a place to stay. They are of course expected to stay in touch with social workers, but other than that, not much is required of them. They are even permitted to stay in these places for the rest of their lives!

People tend to cope better with their problems when they have a roof over their heads. Controlling additions and alcoholism has been found to be much easier when given housing. Not having a place to stay, on the other hand, to seems to worsen substance abuse issues. So too is it true for practically all problems homeless individuals face. Give a person a stable home where stress is scarce and a person can thrive, and many of their problems go away on their own.

I am happy to report that Helsinki, Finland is not the only city to completely solve homelessness. Other Finnish cities have implemented this scheme as well. The result has been an impressive, steady decline in homelessness consistently over the past thirty years.

Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

The American state of Utah has also seen gradual success with the Housing First scheme. It too has solved its homeless crisis by also handing people a house first. Providing support for people dealing with personal problems, Utah also offers additional work and learning opportunities. The state’s strong leadership and effective funding are critical reasons why Utah has seen so much success.

Columbus, Ohio, too, has seen similar results.


All these cities have solved homelessness to a vast extent. Admittedly, however, each city discussed still fosters people who lack adequate shelter. The reason is no solution has yet been proposed to eradicate homelessness entirely. Doing so proves daunting.

First, poverty and unemployment still exist in these cities. Even relatively inexpensive housing projects are simply still too expensive for some homeless individuals to live in. Living below the global poverty line makes it difficult to pay rent. A fair amount of subsidy helps, but in the long term, all solutions to end homelessness, entirely, fail. Some solutions succeed in reducing the homeless population significantly, but nonetheless, homelessness still remains.

Many reasons for this exist. First, some people simply choose to be homeless. No matter what attempts are made to get them off the streets, the homeless refuse help.

Others fall victim to unexpected life circumstances. They lose a job unexpectedly, for example, and are temporarily homeless in the transitionary period to new employment.

Still, others suffer from mental or physical illnesses. These illnesses prevent them from working.

The list goes on and on. People become and remain homeless for a number of reasons.


These 4 cities show us that homelessness is very solvable. We need only to focus on completely eradicating the problem, and then figure out what innovative solutions for our own cities are best implemented. A robust governmental mission is essential here. So are effective funding channels for housing projects. The success of the Housing First approach illustrates the importance of making housing easier for the homeless to attain. Offering them a house first, it appears, is the key to getting them back on their feet. For those without a home, few barriers to accessing emergency shelter should exist. The homeless need to roof over their heads first, before they fully thrive and progress. The cities presented in this article also remind us of the importance of fostering a sense of compassion and goodwill towards those in need. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Given a home first, the homeless can finally begin to thrive.


Homelessness is a severe global crisis. Vienna, Austria, Helsinki, Finland, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Columbus, Ohio, however, are 4 impressive cities that have solved homelessness almost entirely. If we want to end homelessness in our own cities, we must learn from their models and policies. It is essential to realize that we don’t want a society where people live and die on the streets. Once we understand that, it becomes easier to start taking steps to solve this problem.

further reading

This article focused exclusively on cities that have solved homelessness. What it focused not at all on, however, is the barriers preventing the homeless from getting a job…