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Increase in women's shelters insufficient, says organisation

An increase of 23 new crisis care homes brings the total to 202 – but 500 are needed, the national federation says.

Kuvituskuva turvakodista. Kuvassa pehmoleluja.
Mother and child homes are safe places for victims of domestic violence. Image: Antti-Jussi Korhonen

Twenty-three new mother and child homes and shelters will be established in 2019, bringing the total of crisis homes in Finland to 202.

The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters said that the new shelter spots will become operational in Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kotka, Vantaa and Äänekoski.

Crisis shelters are places where anyone facing domestic abuse or the threat of violence may go to seek refuge and care.

One of the first new shelters to inaugurate new facilities is Villa Jensen in Kotka, south-east Finland, which will open new rooms in early April.

"We want our customers to feel safe in the new spaces, so we are making them more homelike rather than institutional," said the Kymenlaakso region's social service chief, Riikka Mauno.

Anyone in need of refuge from acute domestic violence can enter a shelter anywhere, regardless of their home city.

During 2018, some 130,000 people were victims of violence within intimate relationships, according to the Finnish National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL).

More than double needed

Funding for the network of shelters became government-controlled in 2015. The national federation received two million euros of additional funding for 2019.

Riitta Särkelä, secretary general of the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters, said that this year’s increase in resources is insufficient.

"There is a clear need for more and more safe spaces. Domestic abuse is more common in Finland than most other European countries," Särkelä said.

While any family member may experience violence from another, Särkelä points out the especially high number of women who face threatening or dangerous situations at home.

"International reports show that in Finland one in three women aged 15 to 74 faces either domestic assault or the threat of violence in their close relationships," she said.

In the federation’s view, Finland needs 500 such shelters.

"Shelters are meant for acute crises, so we have to make sure there are always spaces available," Särkelä said.

Some 1,200 victims were denied placement due to lack of resources in 2016.

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