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17 May, 2010 05:33

Swedish government in dilemma over cushy lives of homeless population

Sweden’s “home for all” welfare system has presented the government with a problem – given the generous benefits handed out to those on the streets; some have no intention of changing their situation.

Together with free food at charity kitchens and accommodation at shelters, homeless people receive ample state handouts which even allow them to do a little shopping. As a result, some people choose to remain homeless.

“You can eat nice food. You can sleep until 12:00. I think Stockholm is a good place,” says Bjorn, a homeless man who has not had a roof over his head in twenty years.

Charity Worker Kristina Persson has her doubts that people do it voluntarily. She believes that “It's difficult to say it's a choice, but it may be the choice they can see.”

There are over 900 voluntary organizations caring for Sweden's estimated 20,000 homeless, which means there are almost as many carers as there are homeless people. They reject the idea that people on the streets can be happy with being homeless.

“Come back in twenty years, meet this guy, talk to him, you will see a man who is really broken,” said Homeless Counsellor Brother Elias.

The government believes that drug and alcohol addiction, as well as mental health problems, are often linked to so-called voluntary homelessness. It seeks to eliminate the problem entirely.

“We try to find housing for everybody who is right now homeless,” stated Barbro Westerholm, Member of Swedish Parliament.

The irony is that, by continuing to help Sweden’s impoverished, both these organizations and the government are actually enabling people to stay on them.