European jobseekers falling homeless in Sweden
Publicerat: måndag 27 december kl 16:27, Radio Sweden
Photo: Leif R Jansson/Scanpix
With temperatures in the capital dropping close to 20 degrees below freezing on Christmas Eve, you might wonder how anyone without a roof over their heads could survive outdoors.
I went to one of the places where the homeless go for warmth and shelter - Klara Church in central Stockholm – to try to find out. On Christmas Eve the Red Cross and the church served up a traditional Christmas dinner after a packed mass and carol service.
Standing outside, the church I met up with Janne, who has been homeless for the last 11 years.
Homeless at Christmas in Stockholm
"You do what you can to get through it – you go round on night buses, hang out in train stations, hallways of buildings," he said.
"And at this time of the year especially, with Christmas and all – a bit of beer always helps – although you do feel pretty lonely."
Janne has worked occasionally as a watchman at a local hospital, and has used a friends address to get himself on the housing list. But he does not hold out much hope for getting a place.
"They always say there are too many people on the list. But the reality is that it’s always those who already have a place to stay that get given council housing."
Sweden’s homeless problem has grown steadily since the 1980s and an estimated 20,000 are thought to be sleeping rough. In Stockholm about 3,000 people are homeless. That’s an increase of about 40 percent compared to a decade ago, according a recent study by the NGO Stockholms Stads Mission, although there has been a couple of hundred fewer in the streets in the last couple of years.
Deacon Hasse Hernberg, at Klara Church, has opened the church at night so that homeless people can sleep on the heated floor.
He says more and more of the city’s homeless are jobseekers from other European countries, who find it impossible to get a place to stay, even when they can find work. He is critical of the city’s council’s approach to these people – who are not allowed to stay in municipal shelters.
However Nina Ström, homeless coordinator at Stockholm City council denies that there is a major problem facing the homeless in the city.
"We have lots of places for people to stay both at night and day. It’s been working well, even with the cold weather," she said.
She says that although there is a paradoxical rule that people must be registered as residents in the city – exceptions can be made for those in extreme need. However, she says there is no obligation on the city to help the increasing numbers of Europeans on the streets.
Deacon Hasse Hernberg, says that the city must change it’s policy before it’s too late.
"If people do not get shelter, they will die. It's so cold that you die, and it can happen very quickly."
Reporter: Tom Sullivan