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26.10.2005

Homeless in Helsinki

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:44 am

Helsingin Sanomat follows around a homeless bum for 24 hours. He gets 800 euros a month from his pension (damn, and this guy is still homeless?). After his divorce he started spending all his money on booze, “I would have sold the shirt off my back for booze” – Maybe if alcohol wasn’t taxed so high in Finland, he wouldn’t be so poor? And maybe if he wasn’t an alcoholic, he wouldn’t be so poor…

At five in the afternoon Reijo runs into another homeless man, Pepe. Pepe has a long beard and a lively disposition. Pepe is displeased because someone has broken into his lodgings and taken his tranquilisers.

Pepe wants to move to Tallinn, where living is less expensive, and Finnish social security benefits go further. Reijo thinks Pepe’s plan makes sense. He listens intently, until the men begin to argue. The argument is about whether or not female visitors need to be reported to the personnel at the dormitory during the night. Pepe thinks they do, Reijo thinks they do not.

[...]At half past nine a loose and somewhat menacing group has gathered on Vaasankatu. Kalkkers, a night café for the homeless, opens in half an hour, but one needs to arrive early to get in. Only the first 15 are admitted. The rest have to seek shelter for the night elsewhere.

If he cannot get into Kalkkers, Reijo sleeps in a stairway. Someone has suggested that committing a crime might be a good idea. You could get into jail for the winter.

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    Old news. After the article in Helsingin Sanomat, Reijo got an apartment. Someone, I think it was the city, made the security deposit for the rent of an apartment Reijo had been looking at and he got to move in. Reijo said that he agreed with the bank that they would deduct the rent directly from his account, so that he’d get to keep the place. Didn’t the article say that Reijo was sober now?

    The city admitted to the fact that Helsingin Sanomat wrote an article about Reijo greatly affected the decision to make the security deposit for the apartment. It was too embarrassing to have him walking around and people recognizing him.

    Now if people would only pull their heads out of their asses and stop stalling the building of new shelters in their areas, there would be a far smaller homelessness problem.

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    BTW, as a student I live on about 500 ? a month. It’s tough, but manageable.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not manageable to be a student and live on ~400?. over 300? goes on rent. that leavs about 100? a month… you really have to work in the summer…

  • Anonymous

    It’s not manageable to be a student and live on ~400e. over 300e goes on rent. that leavs about 100e a month… you really have to work in the summer…

  • Phil

    The city admitted to the fact that Helsingin Sanomat wrote an article about Reijo greatly affected the decision to make the security deposit for the apartment.

    If only newspapers could do an article about every homeless person!

  • Freeridin’ Franklin

    It’s not manageable to be a student and live on ~400e. over 300e goes on rent. that leavs about 100e a month? you really have to work in the summer?

    Rooms at HOAS in Koivukylä start from a little over 150 EUR/month. They are available throughout the year. Of course, many students are incredibly picky about their housing location, and wouldn’t even consider living there.

    But yes, overall, students are truly the pariah of the welfare state.

  • Anonymous

    Koivukylä rocks! I lived there for 8 months while studying, had a nice apartment in 12th floor with a beautiful view over the area. Also the people there are quite nice. Only one threatened to kill me because I observed him beating the crap out of another guy lying on the ground and the locals were always very cheerful at 7 in the morning, waving thier beers at passer-by’s. I only can recommend a visit in “Havupubi”. Great place to meet all sorts of people!

  • Philip

    Seriously, access to good quality, inexpensive housing (whether to purchase or rent) in much of Europe (including Helsinki and London) and indeed the developed world is becoming a major issue. Strict planning laws, NIMBYism and BANANAism among the population and lack of builders has all influence the housing crisis.

  • http://anzisblog.blogspot.com Anzi

    I do not go to university in Helsinki, but in Turku, were cheap housing is still available even on the rpivate market. You can get a decent little home in the student village for about 200 euros a month, utilities and internet included. Not bad.

    If only newspapers could do an article about every homeless person!

    That’s what the journalist who wrote the piece said in her comment column. She calculated that it would take about 22 years to get rid of Helsinki’s homelessness problem if they published an article a week about every homeless person.

    I have to say that I was very happy for Reijo, he seemed genuinely grateful about his own little place.

  • antti (the red neck one)

    Hey, there are Koivukylä veterans here!! I lived on the top floor of that huge red and white HOAS building in a cell of four. In 1988-1990 the rent was just 474 marks/month. The place is a must for every nerdy prospective author, who wants to see various aspects of human life.

    On the topic, I observed some homeless winos in my work at HKL and SOME of them are actually keen on staying outside. Stadi has maybe given them an apartment, but they don’t feel comfortable there. They just want their freedom and cardboard housing in Pasila forest. I’m not saying the homelessness is not a problem, but some of them are homeless by choice.

  • Kathryn

    “Strict planning laws, NIMBYism and BANANAism among the population and lack of builders has all influence the housing crisis.”

    BANANAism? Can someone please enlighten me?

    Off topic, is it true that the Finnish government hasn’t given any funds to the UN Kashmir earthquake fund?

  • Kathryn
  • Joonas

    Actually the follow-up about how Reijo got an apartment was published as a part of that original Intl Ed story.

  • jeppih

    NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard
    NOPE = Not On Planet Earth
    BANANA = Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone

    I think that clears it up.

    On the offtopic, as Oxfam sez: “While some of these governments may have given resources outside of the UN appeal, Oxfam said that ensuring the UN appeal is met is vital to ensuring the aid effort is successful.”

    This is correct. For example Finland has already given more than 1,2 million $ through Red Cross and also given tents etc. worth more than million $ through Church Foreign Aid (or whatever it is in English). Another 3 million $ is soon going via Red Cross if things go as planned. On the other hand, it seems Finland isn’t going to fund the UN appeal, making us seem bad in a way. It’s probably a similar case with other European countries Oxfam names in their report, that they are channeling their Kashmir funding through other ways. So while it is true that Finnish state isn’t giving anything through UN program this time, it doesn’t mean they didn’t give anything at all.

  • Eino-Kalevi

    “Maybe if alcohol wasn’t taxed so high in Finland, he wouldn’t be so poor? And maybe if he wasn’t an alcoholic, he wouldn’t be so poor?”

    And maybe if Phil read more carefully, he wouldn’t make these major mistakes!

    “Reijo has been sober for five years already. He is so adamant about keeping away from drinkers that he does not even attend the Salvation Army day centre’s morning sauna.”

  • Phil

    And maybe if Phil read more carefully, he wouldn’t make these major mistakes!

    I don’t think you’ve read carefully. I know he’s sober now (or, says he’s sober now) – But when he got his divorce and “sold the shirt of his back for alcohol” and lost his house…he was poor. That’s what I’m talking about.

  • Phil

    I’d be interested to know what the hell he’s being doing for the past five years if he’s been sober. 800 euros a month, off the booze, and can’t get a place? Something else must be wrong, or he’s a liar. Bums aren’t exactly know to be the most trustworthy people.

    Someone got fed up with Reijo’s plight and helped him get an apartment – the one he had dreamed of. He does not wish to elaborate on the details.

    “Someone” … so it was the city/state who helped him ? Heh.

  • tim73

    “Off topic, is it true that the Finnish government hasn’t given any funds to the UN Kashmir earthquake fund? Comment by Kathryn”

    Well, they can afford nukes…so if they wanna play big and bad…they have to just walk the walk. (In Finnish: sitä saa mitä tilaa – SSMT).

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