Prosperity, Europe, Cities & Urbanisation

How cities are tackling homelessness

Varsha Saraogi | Jan 08, 2018


This article was originally published by Thomson Reuters Foundation News and is republished with permission.

More than 4,000 people are on the streets across Britain every night

LONDON, Jan 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From portable cardboard tents to one-way bus tickets out of town, cities’ efforts to tackle homelessness have been met with both praise and scorn.

In London alone, there are almost 1,000 people who sleep rough, according to official figures, while more than 4,000 are on the streets across Britain every night.

Here are some facts about what global cities are doing to help homeless people – or to get rid of them:

Cardboard tents in Brussels

Canvas tents are banned on the streets of Brussels, as camping is forbidden in the city. But using cardboard donated by a local factory, activist Van der Stappen worked with designers to produce 20 portable cardboard tents, which homeless people are using on the streets of the Belgian capital during the cold winter.

One-way bus tickets out of town in Seattle

American cities including Seattle are giving the homeless a one-way bus ticket out of town that gives them a chance to relocate to cities with a cheaper rent and low cost of living. It is an affordable way to reunite the homeless with their families, officials say.

Replacing shelters with housing units in Finland

The Finnish government has cut homelessness by 35 percent between 2008 and 2015 by giving accommodation under the country’s ‘Housing First’ strategy. Under this strategy shelters have been replaced by housing units based on supported rental housing.

Charities letting property in London

Resonance Limited, an investment company that works with social enterprises, developed the Real Lettings Property Fund in collaboration with homelessness charity St Mungo’s. The Fund has purchased and refurbished over 250 properties in the Greater London area and leased them to St Mungo’s Real Lettings team, which lets them to potential homeless people. It should help to lift over 1,000 people out of potential homelessness, according to Resonance’s website.

Using an armoury as a home in Toronto

The Canadian city of Toronto is revisiting a shelved proposal to use a federal armoury, Moss Park, to cope with unprecedented demand on its homeless shelter system, the city’s mayor said in a recent tweet. It will be a 24 hour respite centre with 100 beds by April 2018.

Banning soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur

In 2014, authorities in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur announced soup kitchens that provide food to the homeless within 2 mile radius of Kuala Lumpur city centre would be fined.

But despite the ban, initiatives such as Street Feeders continue to grow in the city through social media, feeding up to 300 homeless people fortnightly.

This story was published with permission from Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit


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