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Nopsajalka team is a new way to overcome homelessness

Published on 27.2.2023
Tampere University
Kolme Nopsajalka-tiimin jäsentä kävelevät kadulla kohti kameraa
Jyväskylä Nopsajalka team members, from the left Social Counselor Hannele Kaunisto, Project Leader Ritva Anttonen and Psychiatric Nurse Riikka Hult. Photo: Nopsajalka team
The program of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government has set the goal of reducing homelessness by 50% by 2023. The goal is to eradicate homelessness by 2027. Reaching these goals requires new solutions. One of the most promising solutions is Nopsajalka multiprofessional mobile team which has been tested in practice since the fall of 2020. The RESET research team from Tampere University has now published a study on the Nopsajalka experiment. The results of the study are an important part of the development of homelessness work in Finland.

A recent report submitted to Minister of Environment Maria Ohisalo by the leading expert on homelessness Juha Kaakinen emphasizes that the government’s goal of reducing homelessness by 50% requires new instruments.  

One of the most promising instruments for eradicating homelessness is Nopsajalka multiprofessional mobile support team. The idea was created in a Change Laboratory study conducted in Tampere in 2019, with the participation of a diverse group of actors in homelessness work. The work of Nopsajalka has been tested in practice in Jyväskylä since the fall of 2020.

The RESET research team of Tampere University, led by Professor Annalisa Sannino from the Faculty of Education and Culture, has now published a study on the Nopsajalka experiment. The results of the study are an important contribution to the new phase of homelessness work in Finland. 

The Nopsajalka team ensures that the client gets access to the needed services

The Nopsajalka team is a small and agile group which ensures that a person who is homeless or at risk of homelessness gets the services he or she needs. In Jyväskylä, the Nopsajalka team consists of a psychiatric nurse, a social counsellor and a social worker. The team has also expertise in adult social work, child protection, substance use, crisis and trauma work.

"Nopsajalka moves with the client, negotiates, and serves as an interpreter when needed. The team ensures that the client really gets for instance into a supported housing unit and that the client’s life in the unit is stabilized", Sannino describes.

The team’s working principle is ‘escorted transfer’, which literally means escorting the client to needed services and into dialogue with receiving services.

Nopsajalka mends gaps in the service system

In Jyväskylä, significant numbers of Nopsajalka’s clients come discharged from a hospital department specialized in substance use and mental health problems as well as released from prisons. By the end of 2022, Nopsajalka had 134 clients, of whom 89 clients’ housing was secured and 27 clients received an apartment with their own rental agreement.

The need for Nopsajalka teams is becoming more acute as clients move increasingly between services and housing solutions.

"Nopsajalka’s work is not only helping individuals in difficult situations, but it is at the same time also mending gaps and cracks in the service system. Nopsajalka is a cost-effective model because it does not try to replace or duplicate already existing services but helps clients and services to find each other", Sannino sums up.

The field needs education and training for mobile work

Working in a Nopsajalka team is demanding because the team must hold on to and follow up the clients by means of phone calls, visits and various practical support measures, although their life situations change rapidly and often unpredictably.

The flexible street-level way of working in Nopsajalka, requires that the relevant ministries plan and start to offer new kinds of education and training that prepare workers for mobile work.

"We recommend that Nopsajalka type of multiprofessional mobile support teams are introduced and implemented in the wellbeing counties around the whole country. For this, experiences gained in different cities from similar work models need to be collected, analyzed and disseminated for nationwide use. This way, with the help of research, we can create a foundational component for the new Finnish Housing First 2.0 strategy based on collaboration across organizations and sectors", Sannino concludes.