Homeless Stockholm man finds shelter on Åland ferry

Homeless Stockholm resident Björn Mattson chose to live on a ferry to Finland rather than move 300 km away or lose the chance to receive housing.

Viking Line's ship Isabella docked at Mariehamn, Åland. Image: Jouni Koutonen / Yle

When homeless Swedish man Björn Mattson was looking for a place to stay, he did get an offer from the local municipality--but none that could match up to the value for money provided by the ferry to Åland.

According to Stockholm tabloid Aftonbladet, that the one room apartment Mattson was offered by the municipal housing authority was hundreds of kilometres away, he was also unsure of who actually was responsible for rent payments and on top of it all he had never been to the area. So he refused to move there.

It was later revealed that the local immigration service had deemed that apartment block was uninhabitable due to infestations of rats, cockroaches and mold.

Mattson's problems began several years ago. In 2013 he found himself faced with medical and personal relationship problems as well as running afoul of the local employment office's rules, according to the paper (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

His earlier life as a consultant who lived in Nynäshamn, south of Stockholm, abruptly changed to an inability to support or house himself. Despite the problems he managed to find temporary places to live. But eventually he was forced to reach out for help from social services.

Mattson was offered a room in a city hotel where he lived for a few months. But social services claimed he had not been active enough in his search for a permanent place to live and his hotel housing benefit was cut, effectively leaving him on the streets, he told Aftonbladet.

He claims that he'd searched a total of 700 different apartments during that time but that he was rejected every time he mentioned to real estate agents that social services were involved in his tenancy.

He said the experience made him feel insulted, undervalued and depressed.

Nights spent between Stockholm and Åland

After seeing few other options, and in lieu of dearer hotel rates, Mattson decided to ride the ferry from Stockholm to Mariehamn, Åland - Finland's autonomous group of islands in the Finnish archipelago. During the low season tickets are only about 10 euros per journey, with breakfast included.

Mattson lived on the boat for about a week, according to housing publication Hem&Hyra (siirryt toiseen palveluun) and doesn't know what the future holds, or how long his finances will last. He's recovering from a disc operation in his back and is scheduled for more medical exams soon. But his housing problems remain.

His last cruise was Friday night but the next night was spent at a Stockholm homeless shelter.

Mattson said that he's now waiting to hear whether he'd receive emergency housing from the city.