Homeless need more help: Health minister

Homeless need more help: Health minister
Sweden's Public Health Minister Maria Larsson has called for new measures to help those living on the streets and sharper legislation to stop children being evicted from their homes.

Larsson, a Christian Democrat MP, wants the government to intensify work with homelessness in Sweden and contributory factors during the next term of office.

“A welfare state like Sweden should not have a homeless problem,” said Larsson while presenting a new proposal at a Christian Democrat campaign event in Jönköping, central Sweden, on Saturday.

“Forty years ago we had no homeless people on the streets,” she added.

Her suggestions include better representation by way of a national homeless coordinator whose job would be to support local authorities in developing strategies to get more people off the streets.

Larsson also proposed a sum of 50 million kronor ($6.76 million) to be earmarked towards local councils to help them set up the ‘Property First’ project.

The new initiative, recently introduced to Sweden, aims to help the homeless – often those with addiction problems – by first offering them a place to live and then organising help to address their physical and mental well-being.

Larsson stated that the method has reaped successful results in the US and gave a special mention to the cities of Malmö, Helsingborg och Stockholm for their work with the project.

She also proposes a review of legislation to make it illegal to evict children from their homes by 2012.

“For every child it’s is a catastrophe not to have a home to go to,” she said. “”That children are being evicted in our country is just completely unacceptable.”

In 2007, the government introduced a new strategy for homelessness. At that time around 1,000 children a year were affected by evictions carried out by the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden).

Those figures are reported to have halved in the last two years but Larsson says it’s not enough.

Legislation must be clearer so local authorities have a better understanding that children cannot be evicted from their home.

Larsson also proposes better cooperation between social services and Kronofogden in order that evictions can be more easily prevented.

“This is a matter of urgency,” she said.

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