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Helsinki homeless rush to shelters as cold snap bites

The severe cold of the past few days has seen a rush to shelters among homeless people in the capital. Even the emergency accommodation on offer in Helsinki is now full to bursting.

Sänkyjä pedataan uusia yöpyjiä varten Hietaniemenkadun palvelukeskuksessa.
Staff prepare beds at a homeless shelter in Helsinki. Image: Yle

Very cold temperatures have dominated weather in the Helsinki region in recent days, and that’s had an effect on the temporary accommodation available to homeless people.

Hietaniemenkatu service centre offers most of the crisis accommodation in the capital, and it is intended for 60 occupants. As the cold bit in recent days, however, it has offered warmth and shelter to between 58 and 64 residents.

"Sure the cold shows in demand for our accommodation," said Taru Neiman of Helsinki’s social services department. "We’ve received exceptional permission from the fire service to exceed our capacity. We’ve laid out mattresses if there aren’t enough beds (on any one night)."

According to Neiman the Hietaniemenkatu centre can hold up to 70 people. Emergency shelter is also available at the Kalkkers drop-in centre in Kallio.

"I really hope that we don’t allow a situation to develop where somebody doesn’t have somewhere to go in this cold," said Neiman. "We need flexibility from everyone right now."

Helsinki has around a thousand places in assisted living homes available to homeless people, but they are all full and the queue for a flat is currently 552 people long. Many of those people waiting for a home stay with friends or in emergency accommodation.

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