Cold sees homeless shelters struggling to cope

Homeless shelters in Finland’s capital are reporting overcrowded conditions as the harsh winter weather makes life even harder for those sleeping on the streets. According to a director at one Helsinki refuge, they are having to turn away many more people this year compared to last.

“The number of people seeking shelter is increasing,” Sanna Sunikka, director of a homeless shelter in Helsinki’s Toolo district, told YLE. Her comments are backed up figures released recently by the ARA (Finland’s Housing Finance and Development Centre), which indicated the number of rough sleepers is on the up.

Sunikka added that while beds are vacated when people move away from the shelter, the centre’s 104 bunks are quickly filled up again with new clients each night. ”Very cold weather and peoples’ changing circumstances also cause peaks in the need for shelter,” she said.

Paying for a night at the centre allows a resident a free breakfast but, according to Sunikka, many are then unable to afford the one euro price for a further meal that day.

The Toolo shelter can normally accommodate 104 overnighters, but recently took in 137 when an increase of visitors sought refuge on a particularly cold night. It is estimated that around 2,500 people live on the streets of Finland on a long-term basis.