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Hard times hit safe homes and shelters

Finland faces a shortage of safe houses and shelters designed to accommodate those fleeing from domestic violence.

Nainen menee sisään Oulun turva- ja ensikodin ovesta.
Image: Yle

The current financial crisis is taking its toll on the number of safe homes. It was announced this week that a house is to be closed in the western Finnish town of Pori. A shelter in Espoo is also to close its doors. This would leave Finland with just 108 places in safe houses or shelters.

“What is most worrying is that the cost of maintaining homes is cited as the reason for their closure,” explains Sari Laaksonen, Development Director of The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, which maintains 14 of the 21 safe houses and shelters in Finland.

Municipalities, for their part, claim homes and shelters are under used--but deny that this is the reason for their closure.

“In Espoo we want to build a wider approach to the provision of quality homes and shelters,” says Marja-Leena Remes, City of Espoo Director of Family and Social Services.

Expansion in Oulu

In some communities the situation is more optimistic. In the northern city of Oulu, provision of safe homes and shelters has more than doubled in the past two years.

“Our walls are expanding as families suffer during the financial crisis. Luckily people are willing to seek help,” explains Timo Peltovuori, Operations Director of The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters in Oulu.  In his view, family violence appears to be on the rise.

“These are insecure times. Society has changed; nowadays actions and rhetoric have become tougher,” Peltovuori told Yle.

The European Council recommends Finland should have some 530 places in shelters available to those in need. Finland has received several complaints from the UN that it does not meet international agreements on the adequate provision of safe homes and shelters.

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