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Rough sleeping has been almost eradicated in Helsinki (bbc.com)
92 points by Sami_Lehtinen 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 97 comments

I wish we'd do this. I get in arguments with friends, usually the response is "why should they be housed if they're just gonna drink or do drugs?" "Why should there be free public restrooms? Homeless people might shoot up or have sex in them."

Well... They're drinking, shooting up, and having sex right at the bus stop, so I'd happily pay to have them do it out of sight, without even considering the fact that it's more moral to care for the downtrodden.

So much pride seems wrapped up in it. "why should I pay for someone else to be a lazy drug addict? That's MY MONEY!" It's not a solution oriented mindset. Like, they're gonna shoot up on the street where you gotta step over their needles, or in a house away from you. Seems obvious to me, even if it's more expensive.

If you're looking for a similar solution to getting the homeless out of sight without "costing tax-payer money," the only one I can think of is murdering the homeless, or maybe shipping them to an island? Obviously, insane. So how do I overcome the pride barrier in these conversations?

It might not just be pride. There are probably a set of values that underlie your friends' opinions. If you can find out what they are, it may help you find some common ground to start a productive conversation. If you understand their values, you can adjust your message, facts and/or anecdotes that you present them with.

If your friend has been through hardships of their own, it may be helpful to ask them about those experiences. Ask them about techniques or strategies they used to overcome those hardships. How can you lead your friend to conclude that these techniques or strategies aren't available to the homeless for themselves?

Some things to look for: expectation of fairness, learned helplessness, loss aversion, distrust in others / doing everything yourself, fear of the unknown/different, rigid adherence to rules.

At the end of the day, you can only change your actions. Also reflect on what's more important to you: your friendship with this person, or your beliefs on this issue. If you fundamentally disagree, and it's really bothering you, it is okay to pause or even end a friendship over it.

Also keep in mind that there are (roughly) two schools of thought on what counts as fair: One group thinks fair is when everyone gets support so they get the same chances. The second group thinks fair is giving everyone the same amount of support. Neither is really more correct, but it might help understand people a bit more.

That’s a mischaracterisation of at least one side of that particular debate.

In the specific case of homelessness, the left’s position is more or less to reject any attempt to assign blame or adjudicate fairness. Could homeless people have avoided their situation by just keeping it together slightly better? Of course, yes. But raining even more hardship on them (people in this threat are talking criminalization and forced sterilization) adresses only our instinct that wants them to suffer, while doing nothing to actually help.

Neither may be more correct, but the former historically gets you less long-term social upheaval from angry poor people.

If one is miserable at work and hates ones life, seeing others suffer who do "shirk" the responsibility is i think sort of social acceptable revenge fantasy. The same sort "good" christians enjoy when they collectively imagine how god will smash all those hedonists at armageddon.

It's an approach that has shown dramatic positive results in the US over the last 20 years.

The shelter the homeless programs in the US reduced the homeless population from ~650,000 to ~550,000 today over one decade (2007-2016), despite the great recession occuring during that time (with a massive spike in unemployment and people losing their homes). Unsheltered homelessness, which would be approximately equivalent to rough sleeping in the UK I believe, declined from 255,000 to 176,000 (31%) over that decade.

The Federal Government programs under Bush and Obama are solely responsible for the improvement, against a mediocre economic picture during that time. The housing first program under the Bush Admin, and then the various housing programs followed by that during Obama Admin[1].

If we're smart, we'll keep applying more resources that direction. It works [2] and we have overwhelming proof over the last two decades.

[1] https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/econo...

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/08/the-ast...

The best response is to ask why not? Life is better for everyone if group A doesn't have to shit and shoot up on the street and group B doesn't have to avoid stepping in shit and on needles day in and day out.

I like it. Added to playbook.

I don't think it is an issue of pride but more of fairness.

If you find yourself on the streets because you lost your job or because you had a rough upbringing or because you had to flee from an abusive parent or partner, you should get housing paid by the state.

Where I draw the line, personally is to give free housing unconditionally to addicts.

I am not saying they shouldn't get it, I am saying they should get it under certain conditions, for example entering a program, doing some sort of training, get a job, anything.

Because how is it doing any good to society if you just give housing without people having to change their bad habits?

In the article, the lady who is alcoholic says she can just keep drinking in her room, so she probably doesn't want to work or get better. In this case, I would much rather have her room go to a single mum struggling with her kids or to somebody who actually wants to do something with their lives.

Instead, she is probably going to keep drinking and nothing will change. Housing being a finite resource and taxpayers money being finite as well, priorities should be given to people who actually want to get better.

In an ideal world, maybe you can give a room/apartment to everybody out there who needs one including the people who just want to drink or shoot up all day.

But as it stands it does not makes sense and is ripe for abuse if everybody expects free housing even if they are not willing to change just a little bit.

You also have to question why they're addicted.

If I flee from my abusive parent, end up on the streets, with nothing to do and no hope and eventually turn to drink to blot out the deep untreated depression, should I be housed or vilified?

"so she probably doesn't want to work or get better"

Wow. Or doesn't know how whilst sunk in depression, or without losing the demons of 20 years of abuse or PTSD. Just as seen with ex services people who fight PTSD for years.

The trouble with "common sense" restrictions and limits is people often don't magically fix from depression, addiction, PTSD in neat allotted time windows. I would far rather have the world return to the British System (1900-1960s drug policy: "treat, discourage, but prescribe". Prior to the adoption of a US style war on drugs around 1970 we effectively had no drug problem. No policeman believed there was a link between drugs and crime.).

You may not be aware of this but many people in gainful employment are drinking or taking drugs, and addicted. Should they be thrown out of their mortgaged properties?

I contend it's cheaper and better for society to offer solutions unconditionally. Offer help for addiction, rough sleeping, PTSD, depression. Less crime, less violence, fewer police needed, fewer health emergencies etc.

I think you may not have read my comment properly.

I said I support the fact that people should get housing if they need it.

However what I said was that they should help them get off the drugs, help them with their depression and help them get better and do some training so that they can actually get out of the state housing and move into their own place once they have saved enough money.

The problem I have is that in the article, the lady is an alcoholic, she does not want to get better. She says it herself, she is happy to go to her room and get hammered. Does that sound like somebody who is trying to turn their life around?

So yes I stand by what I said in my previous comment, if addicts get free housing, in exchange they should at least try to get clean. They should at least try to get some kind of job, training, whatever. Because doing something is always better than not. And it certainly is better than getting drunk every day.

If they are not willing to do that even though they, as the article said, have access to staff and carers that can help them, then yes, in this case, I do believe that priority should be given to single mom and kids, or teenagers.

As for this: `You may not be aware of this but many people in gainful employment are drinking or taking drugs, and addicted. Should they be thrown out of their mortgaged properties?`

What does that have to do with anything??? Did I say that anywhere in my comment?

`I contend it's cheaper and better for society to offer solutions unconditionally. Offer help for addiction, rough sleeping, PTSD, depression.`

That's exactly what I said with one small caveat, which is that given the fact that housing is a finite resource, if somebody is living in a free room/apartment and do not want to even try to change/get clean, then this room should be given to somebody who actually wants to get out of this awful situation.

Otherwise, you end up with a lot of people using up a lot of resources when those resources could be spent on people who actually want to turn around their life and get better.

To me, that doesn't sound fair that the first group gets housing and not the second.

It should not be conditional though. Both the single mum and the ageing alcoholic should get provision, not either/or.

Provide everyone with a room, it need not be luxurious, just basic enough to allow needs to be met. To be clean, warm and dry. Realistically a 64 year old isn't going to get much chance of a job. A couple of sentences in the article give no insight into the background. Who knows the history or cause of that addiction. Though I still feel it irrelevant to housing, while very relevant to a working treatment. No amount of "turning around" is going to see her getting housed without some level of outside assistance, just a year or two before retirement.

What's the alternative, leave her to age and die, and probably suffer worse health outcomes, with more cost to the state, on the streets?

I briefly alluded to the British System[1], it was once globally famous. Addicts were offered treatment, but prescribed free heroin or whatever. They could be an addict and hold down a job, perhaps support a family. There was literally no need to push drugs, or commit crime to support a habit - that came after their outlawing.

To imagine it in combination with this housing first policy, I would expect it to see everyone housed. Then everyone offered help (counselling for abuse or PTSD, addiction treatment, AA, anti-depressants, mental conditions or whatever's needed and just as would be offered to the population at large). Then allow them to choose, with encouragement rather than compulsion to take up those treatments.

I made the comment about people in gainful employment being addicted as you seemed, and still seem, to be suggesting that the housing be conditional. Which is then not housing first, but housing maybe if deserving enough.

Housing is indeed finite, but it's not so rare or expensive that Helsinki (or London, or NYC etc) can't provide enough single apartments to ensure that sleeping on a park bench or in a tent under a bridge is a memory of an unimaginable former time. Like child labour, workhouses, corn laws or rickets. There aren't so many homeless that it's remote and unachievable, or unaffordable. Then we can try and help resolve some of the issues that might have landed them homeless in the first place.

With that all said, either variation would be a huge step forward from ignoring the problem. :)

[1] https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/yw4nnk/when-boots-prescri...

>I contend it's cheaper and better for society to offer solutions unconditionally.

>That's exactly what I said with one small caveat

unconditionally means no caveats....

I think it’s hard for someone who isn’t homeless to appreciate how important it is to have a home you can rely on. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to kick an addiction if you have the extra stress of knowing that if you fail to live up to X standard, not only will you have failed to have quit, but you’ll get kicked out to the street as well.

I believe most people want to be contributing members of society. In the short run, maybe some people have no interest, but that gets old fast. And I would much rather that one person who wants to turn their life around is able to, even if it means that 10 people who are content to wallow in addiction live in a clean, safe place where they don’t have to piss on the subway stairs off of my tax dollars.

It's much cheaper to house the homeless than leave them on the streets.


Only under a bizarre set of assumptions. We could not give them free housing while also not giving them free medical care.

We could also measure cost by "this is what the hospital spent on the homeless" as opposed to "this is what the hospital would have billed had the homeless had any money". Your source doesn't specify how costs were measured.

>Only under a bizarre set of assumptions. We could not give them free housing while also not giving them free medical care.

Why not? It seems bizarre to non US citizens that you could even think about not giving some healthcare that you give free housing.

Imagine how hard it is to stop an addiction.

Now imagine how much harder it is if you're living on the street. It makes simple things (eg attend an appointment on $DAY at $TIME at $PLACE) much much harder.

I've never had a problem with alcohol or drugs, but I know I'd be an addict if I lived on the streets just to make it tolerable.

>In the article, the lady who is alcoholic says she can just keep drinking in her room, so she probably doesn't want to work or get better. In this case, I would much rather have her room go to a single mum struggling with her kids or to somebody who actually wants to do something with their lives.

Why not for all of them if it's the cheapest option in the long run?

So you would find it fair that she should be required to freeze to death on the streets if she will not go through treatment for her addiction?

"Rough sleepers have been almost eradicated in the Midwest"

This particular woman is in Helsinki.

I have no idea how anyone could look at homeless people and think, “what they really need is a bit more suffering to finally get their act together”.

As an actual attempt to convince you of the value of even poor people’s lives, I invite you to consider if homelessness could possibly seen as a disease more than any personal lack of virtue. The view has somewhat changed wrt drug dependency (thanks white people on opioids), and there is ample evidence that schizophrenia is widespread among the homeless.

There have also been some recent studies that a rather large fraction of homeless people had experienced head trauma before becoming homeless. The rate was something like 30% (vs. 3% among the general population).

Finally, the “tough love, minus actual love” approach is obviously the status quo. To insist on a failed strategy just to satisfy some moral standard/sadistic instinct seems indefensible. The worst part is that people are obviously willing to incur far larger costs in the criminal justice system, through crimes themselves, and the inconvenience to actually see these people they thoroughly despise/fear: they are willing to pay extra, as long as they are assured the money does not possibly help anyone.

Consider any other scenario where you’re trying to get people to behave in certain ways: parenting, dog training, employment reviews, etc: if you’re beating the crap out of your child twice weekly for being difficult, would you expect their behavior to improve?

> I have no idea how anyone could look at homeless people and think, “what they really need is a bit more suffering to finally get their act together”.

As a person who used to eat with the homeless every day in London, I absolutely do.

There is so much opportunity for lazy and stupid people, especially in the West. A large proportion of the people lining up with me for food from the Hare Krishna people (and a local Christian church too) in Holborn were rude, entitled, and lazy.

If kids were brought up with a little more discipline, they might become adults who appreciate hard graft. If this were true in London and that discipline were implemented, half the people in that food line wouldn't be there.

Maybe that's why I rarely see homeless people in Poland.

They work.

Apparently rough sleepers from other European countries are over represented in London at 30% (not judging them btw, just the facts) so I'd say it's not a simple matter of 'work ethic':


Thanks for adding some data; that’s certainly useful.

From the article, the data show a high proportion of rough sleepers abusing substances. I would lump this in together with work ethic.

Wow, this is... quite something.

It just doesn’t make that much sense: if homeless life in London is so excellent, have you ever considered taking it up?

And because, of course, you didn’t: if you really believe it’s just their lazy choice, what’s the difference between you (and me) and them that we would rather work a few hours five days a week instead of spending winter nights outside in the London rain?

As to why you see fewer homeless in Poland:

- draconian laws banning these people from the streets (a practice most western countries consider a violation of some principles like just basic decency)

- London happens to be a magnet for homeless people. Because the only thing worse than being homeless in the city is being homeless in rural areas

- London and UK rents are something like 5x those in Poland

- Poland’s homeless population tends to do that “digital nomad” thing, only without the MacBook. I. e. they prefer southern France, Berlin, or, yes, London

- Poland tends to still have families living together, making it more likely that the cousin with schizophrenia is cared for within the family, instead of becoming homeless

Some of your points seem to be based on the assumption that I'm tarring everyone with the same brush. That shouldn't be the case; I don't think all the homeless in London are just lazy.

> if homeless life in London is so excellent, have you ever considered taking it up?

It's not excellent. That's why I'm not doing it. The fact that it is not excellent was a motivator for me to work harder and make better life choices.

This contrasts with the woman mentioned in the article who is happy with her free home because she can continue being an alcoholic.

> what’s the difference between you (and me) and them that we would rather work a few hours five days a week instead of spending winter nights outside in the London rain?

Attitude, mostly. I can't speak on your behalf, but I would have taken any job at the time. In fact, I did. I've worked several shitty jobs. Some people (including my fellow Hare Krishna free-street-food patrons) believe they're above certain kinds of work.

> London and UK rents are something like 5x those in Poland

This is an argument for more affordable housing, not for free houses. I certainly agree with a greater housing supply. In general, I am in support of improving people's opportunities of self-determination, rather than just giving people free stuff.

> Poland tends to still have families living together, making it more likely that the cousin with schizophrenia is cared for within the family, instead of becoming homeless

That is true, but I'm not such how it makes a case for either argument. If it's just to downplay my point about the Polish generally having a different attitude to work, then yes, I think that's a reasonable point, though our discussion is completely unscientific and there are no numbers to suggest how much of each is true.

You may want to re-read my comment because I don't think you understood what I wrote.

This is not though love. What I am talking about is incentives. In exchange for free housing, you should at least try to get clean/ do some training/ do something.

To expect that society should provide free meals/housing without even the possibility of asking addicts to get clean does not sound fair to me.

Priority should be given to people who are at least trying to turn around their lives.

So yes I stand by what I said, I think a single mum with kids, a scared teenager/ somebody down on their luck should get free housing. Addicts should have access to care, to treatment, to food to everything that a human being deserves but they should at least try to get clean.

if they won't don't want to then priority should be given to somebody else.

Drug addiction already comes with so many negative side affects that you don't need the added incentive of potentially losing access to housing. If I offered you lifetime room and board in return for a crippling heroin addiction would you take that offer? If not, why not?

Off the top of my head, there are already some fantastic incentives to not be a drug addict such as:

- Massive social stigma and alienation from everyone in your life

- Irreversible mental health issues

- Serious physical health issues (often death)

- The impossibility of doing anything productive or fulfilling

I honestly don't know why we can't do this. It wouldn't be that expensive and while there is some opposition to welfare I think youd be hard pressed to find many people opposingpublic food and shelter for the vert poor. To me its evidence of gross mismanagement and incomptence in government and chairitable fields that homelessness even exists.

Also important to consider that your taxes are already paying for streets as well so whether it is in a taxpayer funded house or a taxpayer funded street is irrelevant.

> "why should I pay for someone else to be a lazy drug addict? That's MY MONEY!"

The subtext of those who think this way is that these people shouldn't exist.

Fundamental truth: you get more of what you subsidize

So here you are proposing to subsidize all these problems. This just encourages more.

>Well... They're drinking, shooting up, and having sex right at the bus stop

But then you can put them in jail which much even more expensive, but they are punished for being poor.

Expensive is good, those prison contractors need work you know.

The comments is a minefield of American's taking issue to the term 'Rough Sleeping'. Other countries also have sayings that you don't use. It's fine (even beneficial) to learn more about other cultures.

Totally agree, I just wanted to point out that a lot of Americans probably wouldn't click on the article in the first place from the headline alone

I'm an American and clicked on it in hopes I'd figure out what that meant.

In the end, I had to come to the HN comments because I wasn't 100% sure they meant the homeless; since this is the BBC, and I've seen enough British TV, I know the British themselves use the word homeless.

Maybe this is one of those weird misplaced PC-ification of the language things?

In a Brit context, homeless encompasses both rough sleeping and sofa surfing.

There's countless homeless who aren't sleeping rough on the streets but are taking space, unofficially in someone's spare room, or literally on their sofa or floor. How are the two forms of homelessness distinguished in US usage?

Rough sleeping is as it suggests: Sleeping outside, sleeping bag in shop doorway, tent, abandoned building, under the railway bridge etc.

“Homeless” includes people who are housed in dormitories, or who have to sleep on a friend’s sofa.

“Rough sleeping” largely means sleeping outside, or “on the street”.

The rough sleeping set is a subset of the homeless set.

Same here, I didn't fully grasp the meaning from the article. Despite some of the skeptics' comments here, what I find fascinating is that we have a subject that could include a variety of situations (poor and living on the street, poor and sleeping on someone's couch, middle income and voluntarily choosing not to have a permanent living place), yet we tend to throw it all into the same "homeless" bucket.

Another commenter suggested that "unsheltered" is the American equivalent to rough sleeping, and I think that makes a lot of sense, even though I haven't heard it much.

Homelessness is obviously an issue in many American cities, and perhaps using more specific definitions could help us understand the issues unique to each group.

This is it. I thought the article was on the eradication of some medical sleeping issue, so I decided not to read it.

Imagine how much would have to be missing for you to get into that position. No money, no address, no phone, no bathroom, no place to stay, no regular meals, living outdoors and exposed, carrying everything you own around.

What asylum could possibly give you a chance to rebuild?

And here it turns out that what home-less people need most is a home.

Slightly tangential there is a 2002 Finnish comedy-drama film about a man who becomes homeless and then the dangers of sleeping rough in Helsinki (freeze to death) and so on. I enjoyed it in the cinema, it won awards at Cannes, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Without_a_Past (Finnish:Mies vailla menneisyyttä)

> Since 2007, their government has built homeless policies on the foundations of the "Housing First" principle.

> Put simply, it gives rough sleepers or people who become homeless a stable and permanent home of their own as soon as possible.

Sorry to sound cynical, but is this an actual solution? Rather than treating the cause, they are simply spending money to remove the symptom. This type of "fix" can be done with any problem given a deep enough pocket.

I have nothing against housing the indigent. I'm just constantly surprised why nobody seems interested in treating the obvious and insidious causes of such problems.

You sound both cynical and uninformed. Plenty of organizations have found that treating the obvious causes is far easier when people are in a house, and it is rapidly becoming recognized even in America as the cheapest and most effective way to reduce homelessness. http://endhomelessness.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/housin...

In a vicious cycle, an effect is also a cause, so treating the symptom can go a long way toward fixing the fundamental problem.

Homelessness quickly becomes the cause of the problems as well as the result. Tough to get a job without an address, without a job, no lease. Poor sleep and no place to shower, even harder to get any kind of job. Add in an arrest history due to homelessness and jobs are harder still. And around the circle it goes.

The lack of housing may in fact be a 'cause'.

Once you have a 'safe space' of stability, you might be able to start to work on those other problems.

'No home' is an impossible place from which to make any progress at all.

There is definitely an issue with 'tragedy of the commons' etc. but there's also no doubt in my mind the 'home first' thing works.

That said - here in Canada, means tested welfare is enough to pay for rent, food - and basically nothing more. But a considerable number of people in my neighbourhood in Montreal chose 'crack + sleeping rough' over 'flat + food'.

Even in the winter. There is 2 feet of snow outside and 1 guy sleeping rough less than 100m from where I write this, outside the clinic. Less than 2 blocks away, there are flats for $450/month $CDN, and they are not bad at all. (It's a very mixed neighbourhood).

I suggest it's a tricky problem and that UBI-ish solutions might not work here, and that it probably needs to be a 'programme' i.e. combined with social workers, monitoring etc..

Did I miss something? What is this simple and obvious cause?

"HDI has a total of 403 apartments in Helsinki and the neighbouring city of Espoo." Wikipedia says that the city has a population of about 643 thousand, so there is one apartment per 1600 of population. San Francisco should then provide around 550 apartments. What sort of dent does that make in the San Francisco homeless problem?

The BBC article mentions housing the formerly homeless with families and friends, and I have to think this makes up a pretty large part of the housing. It seems to me that this must require a degree of something in between persuasion and coercion.

I was in Helsinki last year at a music festival with a friend.

The number of people begging for drinks cans and plastic bottles (to sell for recycling) was huge. Definitely in the hundreds. Sometimes we were asked to hurry up drinking, so the can / bottle could be taken.

We also saw many people scour parks for recycling.

I can't comment on the issue of homelessness, but I can comment on the huge disparity of wealth between the citizens of Helsinki.

On one hand the fact that recycling was being taken care of felt admirable. But the creation of an economic underclass felt a bit obscene.

Though they may be located in Helsinki, I think the people doing that sort of stuff usually don't have citizenship.

True, I wonder if they are even included in the statistics?

It doesn't seem that they are. And as for the claim in the article that "no-one is begging", anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in Helsinki knows that's not true. Most of the people begging might have come from abroad, but they're there. And when it comes to the statistics, I found this reference:

"In addition to the homelessness visible in statistics, the existence of undocumented migrants is a phenomenon connected to homelessness. An undocumented migrant is a person, who does not have a legal right of residence and whose residence in Finland is not known to or permitted by the authorities. Different estimates by experts on the number of undocumented migrants in Finland vary between 500 and 3,000 people [...]" (PDF report downloaded from https://tinyurl.com/ycybdjtc)

Edit: Additionally, EU citizens may legally stay in Finland for months, are many are known to do so, even if they can unfortunately only make a living panhandling

I wonder what ratio is in London.

dang, the headline is "The city with no homeless on its streets", which is clickbaity and vague, but the current link title is hard to understand. Could we maybe compromise with "Homelessness has almost been eradicated in Helsinki?"

Being homeless could also mean that your house burned down so you’re staying in a hotel. Or that you’re in a battered women’s shelter. Or maybe sleeping in a car or at a friend’s house.

It doesn’t just mean sleeping outside - this is a common misconception.

Some digital nomads classify themselves as homeless, although it's a bit tongue-in-cheek as they are clearly of a different socioeconomic status.

At least for me, when I hear the word homeless I first think of someone living on the streets. We don't have exact equivalent to rough sleeping in the U.S. that I can readily think of.

I think it's fine for the BBC to use a British idiom. It only takes a simple lookup to understand it.

I'm not arguing that the BBC shouldn't have used it, but that the editorialized submission headline here on HN could have been a bit more user-friendly -- it's not the headline that the BBC used. The BBC, in fact, used the word "homeless" in its own headline: "The city with no homeless on its streets." :)

The HN title uses language from the summary paragraph below the article heading, which is sort of an extended subtitle. That's legit to do on HN, especially when the language there is more factual and less baity.

I don't see anything user-unfriendly about using the phrase "rough sleeping". Remember that this is a site for gratifying curiosity. Encountering a phrase you haven't heard before is an opportunity to be curious. Plus it's good for HN readers to have to work a little! https://hn.algolia.com/?query=by:dang%20%22work%20a%20little...

The BBC is experimenting with headlines so it's possible OP submitted the article when it was different.

"Rough sleeping" is British slang for sleeping without a roof over your head. Americans' don't know this idiom.

As a representative for Sweden, I can say this is something we had problems understanding also.

"Rough sleeping". I learned a new phrase today. :)

FYI, as an urban American I had never heard the term rough sleeping. Some brief Googling leads me to believe this is an alternative term for homelessness mostly used in the UK.

You may consider changing the title to include the word homeless. It's more descriptive to Americans, at least to n=1.

I figured it out in about 3 seconds. Context clues are often used by Europeans to figure out what the hell we're talking about; we can do the same.

“Rough sleeping” doesn’t mean “homeless.” It means “sleeping outside without shelter.” Homeless people live in cars, shelters, or on friends’ couches, too, not just literally on the street.

Point taken and appreciated. I agree that homeless is a bit of a catch-all, but I'm not sure that we have any equivalent phrase to rough sleeping in the US (at least on the East Coast). When I hear the word homeless, I first think of people living on the streets.

"unsheltered" is the term used in the US.

Haven't heard it used much, but it makes total sense. Thanks!

Do you count tents and cars as shelter that disqualifies "sleeping rough"? I wouldn't, but you included cars in your counter example.

Traditionally yes, they do count, but as it becomes a more longterm solution and people start modifying vehicles for the purpose it becomes a grey area. https://www.urban-initiatives.org/reports/are-all-persons-sl...

I'm an American city-dweller and I've heard or read the expression 'rough sleeping' or 'sleeping rough' before. It isn't common in the US but it's not exactly difficult to determine from the context in the article either.

Is this site only for Americans?

Rough sleeping is used in Australia

For this to happen there needs to be a cultural shift in the US. Finland values equality, US not so much.

It's not even cultural, there are huge demographic, economic, and social differences between Finland and the US. I always find it ironic when people prop up the Nordic countries as utopian, but completely ignore the price of these "utopias". Nothing is ever free.

No one is claiming any of this is free. Some are claiming, often with evidence from the US, that providing apartments is cheaper than the kind of charity based temporary shelters that are usually the only thing available.



I don't know why is this even a problem. There is no rough sleeping or begging in even such a poor country as Belarus. People just know it's a no-no, simply cops have been very persistent at removing them for a few years, and nobody left willing to try.

If you don't know why it's a problem or why people are posting it, maybe it would help to ask people here what homelessness is like in their countries, or google?

Right now your post is coming off like someone from Paris visiting Pocatello, Idaho, and saying aloud in a bar, "why is drunk driving even a problem here? In Paris, we just take the metro home after we drink!"

where do the cops put them? you can't just remove people.

Yes you can. If people support anti-homeless spikes these people will tolerate cops dealing with the homeless by giving them a free ride to the nearest forest in winter. Out of sight, out of mind.

Thing is, if this system works reliably and swiftly enough, it stops being so scary coz you run out of bums: people are deterred well enough from bumming. And you don't need to be as harsh to them as you say, just let everyone understand that spending nights in the street begging and drinking will not be tolerated. Plus of course, you need to have at least some social safety net to help those of them that can be helped, and they have it in Belarus, the country has an expansive system of redundant government-sponsored workplaces which functions almost as universal base income.

That system has been in place since Soviet era and works flawlessly. First there is a distribution center where these people are identified (fingerprints) to see if they've been there already. If they are disabled they are sent to so-called 'rehabilitation centers', which are not much guarded and it's a no-brainer to escape, and is in general not a good place to be. If they are able-bodied they are sent to work (in theory it is mandatory work, it is an administrative sentence, but they are almost not guarded there and can escape easily), if they are alcoholics or drug addicts they are sent to so-called LTPs, prison-type rehabs, from which it's harder to escape, and if they are mentally ill they are sent to prison-type mental institution, from which it's almost impossible to escape.

If someone is found out to get there, escape, and get there on and on, then it's a criminal offense (sounds like 'systematic homelessness') then they are sent to normal gulag-style forced labor camp (as in Russia, there are almost no prisons as such in Belarus, almost every institution which looks like prison is in fact a jail - people are kept there only prior to being sentenced).

That system sounds like well-balanced and fair to me, even if is not perfect. Being a (chronic, i.e. semi-permanent or permanent, as opposed to someone who just happened to get in a tough life situation) homeless, is an obvious crime against public order. Crime difficult to effectively punish without resorting to terror, and yet a crime. Belarusians have built a well-balanced, working system which lets good law-abiding citizens feel safe in the streets.

Im sorry but everything you write sounds like a verbatim quote from a fascist dystopia. Please consider why several people here have expressed bafflement at your position. Criminalization of homelessness, as but one example, is a rather abhorrent idea.

Or consider how easily you could end up “useless” for society: if you get cancer, or into a car accident, would it be ok for society to just let you die? After all, the treatment is certain to cost far more than the taxes you would eventually pay after recovery.

I also feel quite safe here in the streets of Berlin, and part of that is that nobody is going around dividing people into useful and useless.

I don't agree that homelessness and bumming are same things. A law-abiding citizen who got evicted from his rental place due to unemployment and has to live with his friend on even sleeping in his car while figuring things out is one thing, and yes you have to be a Nazi to put him to jail for that. But wandering around the town dirty, drunk, stoned, smelly, begging and looking for what to steal is a totally different story. First is an economic/social issue which society has to constructively address: how to build a workable safety net which eliminates or minimizes such cases without bankrupting the public funds. Second is strictly a law enforcement problem, which should be solved in the interest of law-abiding citizens, not himself: remove this person out of public sight and make as sure as possible that his behavior will be fixed, without burdening public funds too much.

Civilized societies generally subscribe to the theory of human dignity, saying roughly that everyone, even annoying people, remain humans, with inherent rights and to be considered with respect regardless of their actions.

Among the consequences are, for example: the right to a fair trial even for the worst (alleged) criminals; the right to receive medical treatment, even if you were injured doing something rather stupid; the tendency to no longer kill vast swaths of people because you don’t like their last name or whatever — and, of course, not to consider a problem “solved” when the solution involves the police collecting people never to be seen again.

In fact I’m not entirely sure if your blatant ignorance as to the fate of the homeless in your country wasn’t maybe intended as sarcasm.

come on, i never said they are sent to gas chambers or anything. there is a due process in place. this is a punishment for crime, not random terror.

Anovikov: The lack of empathy, not just in the system you describe, but in your praise of it, is quite disturbing. Of course, this used to be a common attitude in most parts of the world some decades ago, and the way it contrasts with most other comments in this thread is telling in many ways.

Your reasoning showcases the authoritarian mindset and moral framework, where other people are judged based on rigid ideas of right and wrong, with no interest in or understanding of their individual problems, abilities or past experiences. People are good or bad, and bad people should be punished until they become good. The problem with this moral framework is that it is disconnected from reality. Punishment doesn’t help a woman who uses alcohol or heroin to soothe a brain and nervous system that is damaged by trauma from childhood abuse. It adds more trauma, and more incentive to continue numbing her pain. Someone who hasn’t experienced real trauma cannot possibly understand how this feels, and it’s easier to just label her a bad apple and get her out of sight and out of mind

OK, so you don't agree that being a bum (systematic, i am not speaking about it as a random happening event like a house fire where the documents were lost too, or running away from home violence), is a crime against public order?

>Punishment doesn’t help a woman who uses alcohol or heroin to soothe a brain and nervous system that is damaged by trauma from childhood abuse

No it doesn't, but in Belarus case, she will be sent (forcibly, but probably without a criminal conviction) to a rehab to try to fix her addiction, not to gulag or a gas chamber. And of course if she has kids, they will be taken away and put for adoption. I can't see what's wrong with this, or at least how it can be done better.

Being a bum is not the same as being poor. It is the kind of a criminal behavior and/or mental disorder. It is especially so in the deep welfare state which leaves very little chances for someone to fall out, such as Belarus is (it is a poor welfare state in the sense that most of its inhabitants are poor, but yet, it works in a way ensuring that no one is left without ways to make basic means for existence, it is not a dog-eat-dog society in any way).

Ah. There is no lawful way of becoming homeless in Belarus. Everyone is obligated to have an address of registration by law and government ensures everyone has a place (in nothing else works, it will be a bed in adult dormitory, but still). Bums are very rarely actually homeless (although their place may be a dilapidated house in a countryside in a place with no work).

My 'rigid system of right and wrong' is pretty simple: society should follow the interest of law-abiding, working, tax-paying citizens.

When you said you couldn't figure out why homelessness was a problem in other countries, do you mean you actually didn't know that most countries don't have forced labor camps?

Forced labor camps is what stands instead of simple prisons in ex-USSR, simply because of poverty of those countries. The same category of people (chronic, multiple repeat offenders who provably have no intention of changing their habits, and as a result of a due process and a court sentence), shall just go to prison in these countries.

They might turn out to be one of the rare categories of people who prison actually fixes - one motive of being a bum is having absolutely no bosses, no mandatory routine, and being able to completely disrespect any kind of rules or authority - being in prison where you are forced to do otherwise for a number of years might actually change that habit (while i am not criminologist, this one admittedly might be bs).

And if you meant the forced labor as an administrative sentence, it's not something horrible, these are not gulags. Aren't people forced to do community work by say, cleaning the streets or assisting nurses in hospitals/nursing homes for misdemeanors such as drunk fights or driving drunk in Western countries? This is same kind of thing.

If you don't like the idea of LTP, then well, i don't like it either, but you have probably little idea of what's called an alcoholic in Belarus - where most adult male population are alcoholics, clinically speaking, and under 1% are risking getting into these LTPs (and most of them are not bums, typically police would send someone there once they realize that he's one binge away from stabbing his wife to death).

Sure, in the West where most people aren't forced to live where they were born because of being dependent on relatives network safety net and/or can afford to buy or rent homes, simpler solution is segregation (soft: basically not trying to artificially slow down market forces that tend to naturally increase the poor/rich communities split) and better policing of poorer areas, but this is what liberals are strongly against, so i'm not really suggesting it.

I think that comment is all justifications for forced labor camps not being so bad, not an answer to my question.

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