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Record number of families in Finland seek shelter from domestic violence

All 10 regions in Finland now have a shelter for families experiencing violence and abuse in the home.

Leluja turvakodin leikkihuoneessa.
Image: Liisa Kallio / Yle

The number of families seeking shelter from domestic violence has increased to a record-high. The Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters said in a recently-published report that last year 12,000 people sought help from the organisation.

Every region in Finland now has a shelter for families experiencing violence and abuse. A shelter in Hämeenlinna, southern Finland, opened two weeks ago, providing welfare services to children and families in violent or insecure circumstances.

The mother and child home in Hämeenlinna – along with nine other such shelters in Finland – is run by the Federation.

According to the group, demand for its services has increased to a record high, with the number of customers growing by 1,000 compared to 2016. The steepest growth occurred in non-institutional care for children experiencing violence, the organisation said.

Walk-ins peak during summer

The number of customers tends to spike in the summer, says Marianna Turunen, a social worker from the mother and child shelter in the western town of Pori.

“In the summer, our customers do not need to consider school or day care schedules, so coming to the shelter is easier,” Turunen says.

“They usually try to sort out matters at home before school starts,” she adds.

While most customers seeking shelter are women, there has been a growth in men in need of help in recent years.

In Pori, about 10 percent of the customers are men. “They come either alone or with the children,” Turunen said.

People seeking shelter are of any age, but this spring the shelter in Pori has seen a larger than usual number of young women under 25, Turunen said.

"The shelters are meant for all ages. We’ve had customers ranging from infants to 70-year-olds.”

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