10 Questions: Juha Kaakinen
- What constitutes a perfect morning for you?
A perfect morning is to see the first rays of sunlight reflecting on the lake in our summer place with the cry of the loon echoing from the cliffs. The smell of fresh coffee doesn’t make it worse.
- The Y-Foundation’s Housing First scheme has raised broad global interest. What is it?
The Housing First principle sees housing as a basic human social right. You don’t have to be ‘housing ready’, a home is a foundation for living and it gives you better changes to deal with all other issues you may have in your life. Housing First means that a homeless person is given a rental flat without preconditions and then support if needed. What is unique in the Finnish model is the scope in which this principle has been implemented in practice, as for us it has been used as a policy principle by default, which has brought good results in reducing the most severe forms of homelessness.
- You have had a significant career working with homeless people. Why did you choose this line of work?
Rather it was this line of work that chose me. I dreamt of becoming a literary scientist. Probably, luckily both for literature and for me this dream didn’t materialise. Working to end homelessness and help vulnerable people in need gives a strong ethical foundation for my daily work. To take care of each other, that’s what we are here for.
- What is your typical working day like?
Meetings, discussions with colleagues, nowadays more and more also with colleagues abroad, and then also a lot of basic, necessary administrative stuff. Overall, too many e-mail-dominated days, with too little time to read or write.
- You were nominated as Euronews’ #Europeanhero by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), which advocates the Finnish approach to tackling homelessness. How did this recognition make you feel?
I was at the same time surprised, proud, honoured and humbled, as I feel that I’m only a representative of the people working together to end homelessness. This isn’t a one-man show.
- As the chief executive director of Y-Foundation, what is your style of management like?
Open door, open mind. I’m out of the office a lot, so when I’m there I try to be totally available for anyone who has an issue to discuss to pop into my room. I prefer straight, honest talk and trust.
- Whom do you admire?
There are many people I admire but in this context I would like to name Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on adequate housing, for her passionate work to promote housing rights.
- As Finland is the only EU state that is not in the midst of a crisis of homelessness and housing exclusion at present, would it be possible to copy the Housing First model to other countries around the globe?
I have just returned from Australia, where there was a huge interest in Housing First. I heard so many professionals and also other people say: “It [Housing First] makes so much common sense.” So, definitively the model can be replicated. Housing First is already being trialled in many countries, but it demands some courage to upscale it and also a lot of affordable housing, which seems to be the real problem in many countries.
- What one word or phrase do you want people to associate with your name?
Together we can do more and we will do it.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
I’m about to retire in a few years. So, I’m expecting a lot more of those perfect mornings with loved ones.
Photo: The Y-Foundation
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