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Hope for the homeless in Denmark

Oak Foundation Denmark / Partner story

Photo by Max Adulyanukosol on Unsplash

During the Covid-19 crisis, many are fortunate enough to be able to retreat into the comfort of their homes with ease, but what about those who are not so lucky? In our 2019 annual report, we wrote about how organisations such as the Salvation Army, Café Klare and the Danish Red Cross are finding solutions for  more than 6,400  people experiencing homelessness in Denmark[1]. By helping to improve the lives of people experiencing homelessness by building relationships with and among them, these organisations have worked to mitigate the problem in a number of ways.

The Salvation Army provides homeless men with a place to stay and strives to build a support system around them. Many of the men struggle with addiction issues and have been rejected by their friends and family. Recognising how prevalent loneliness is among the homeless men staying at the shelter, the team at the Salvation Army actively tries to create connections among and with them. “It’s very important for these men to create a social network within the shelter. We want them to have friends they can turn to and talk to when they leave,” says Niels Boelskov, Social Worker at the Salvation Army.

“It’s a way we can try to give worthiness and hopefulness to people who are coming from unworthy circumstances,” said Kim Nissen, daily leader at Salvation Army.

Café Klare is a night café for homeless women in Denmark. An estimated 90 per cent of the women who stay there have a mental illness. Café Klare plays a critical role in taking women who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse off the streets. Social workers support the women at Café Klare and help them find their own place to stay. Many of the women at Café Klare have no friends or family left to rely on, and are often unable to live alone because of the feeling of loneliness. “Most of them don’t have any friends or family left. Some of them can’t manage the day without having the support,” says Ayfer Baykal, manager of Café Klare.

There is also the element of “hidden homelessness” in Denmark. Many young people couch surf because they simply don’t have anywhere else to go. Couch surfing precedes most cases of homelessness, but younger people are far less likely to become homeless if they can be helped in time. That is why the Danish Red Cross targets homeless individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 through its project called Home to You.

This project gives young people who do not have a home a place to stay with a family. “With this project, we can give youth a stable base that gives them the opportunity to take charge of their living situation,” said Sidsel Faurholt, project manager at the Danish Red Cross.

These projects tackling homelessness in Denmark fall under Oak Foundation’s Denmark Programme. These grants seek to provide innovative solutions to improve the lives of socially vulnerable and marginalised groups at the community level. You can read more about our Oak Foundation Denmark’s strategy here.

[1] Benjaminsen L, VIVE Det Nationale Forsknings – og Analysenenter for Velfaerd, (Accessed 04-02-2020)