More women and foreigners among homeless

The number of people who do not have a home is continuing to rise in Sweden. At least 17,800 people were homeless at the end of April last year and increasing numbers of women and immigrants are being affected, according to a survey by the National Board of Health and Welfare.

The number of homeless people in Sweden has increased by between 2,000 and 3,000 since 1999 when the last survey was carried out. Today there are homeless people in 86% of the country’s municipal districts but the problem is greatest in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.

Three quarters of the homeless people in Sweden are male and the majority were born in Sweden. However, people with a foreign background are over-represented in the figures: 26% of the country’s homeless were born abroad, compared to 12% of the population as a whole.

“We have chosen a broader definition of homelessness to catch more groups who are lacking their own home, and so are also lacking the security and opportunities to maintain social relationships and a private live,” said Anna Qvarlander, the project leader for Homelessness in Sweden.

Although the overall number of homeless people has climbed sharply, the number of people actually sleeping rough has not risen. However, the number who live in different kinds of hostels and shelters has increased from around 500 to 1,650.

The number of women has increased, and psychiatric problems are more common among homeless women than men.

Around 3,600 homeless people are in an “acute” situation, said the report. They sleep rough or live temporarily in hostels, women’s refuges or camp sites.

The average age of Sweden’s homeless population is 41 and one in three is a parent to a child under the age of 18.

“An important point with our research is to show that there are so many different reasons for homelessness, and therefore many different policy areas must take responsibility for the problem – not just social policies,” said Anna Qvarlander.

“For example, housing policy needs to take more responsibility.”

The survey’s findings are to be handed over to the government on Tuesday.

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