THE cabinet member for housing at BCP Council is meeting with experts in Finland to look at ways to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.

Of all 28 members of the European Union, the nordic country is the only one where the number of people without a permanent place to live is falling.

Cllr Kieron Wilson, who heads up work to tackle homelessness across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, has arranged his summer holiday around meetings with officials responsible for its success.

Paying for the trip out of his own pocket, the independent has been learning more about its “housing first” approach where homes are immediately given to people without one.

“What Finland has is a national approach where a home is seen as a fundamental right, whereas we tend to view it as a commodity,” he said.

“They push the idea of getting homeless people into houses straight away and I think that’s something we need to take a look at here.”

Cllr Wilson met with officials from the not-for-profit Y-Foundation on Thursday and will meet with representatives of other organisations in the coming days.

In 2008, more than 3,500 people in Finland were classed as being long-term homeless with the number reduced to 2,000 in 2016.

Meanwhile, rates have increased in every other country in the EU.

Figures published by the charity Shelter in November last year showed there were 882 people without a home across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

Most were being housed in temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfasts.

Bournemouth council borrowed tens of millions of pounds in the last few years of its existence to buy housing for homeless people.

The project, run by the council-owned Seascape Homes, is being continued by the new council.

“There has been some very good work taking place in Bournemouth and Poole but we do need to ramp things up – it really is a crisis,” Cllr Wilson added.

“We know we need to build more housing and we are working hard to do so but we need more support from the government.

“The fact that there have been 20 housing ministers in the last 22 years shows that it has not been a priority.”

Earlier this year, BCP Council chief executive Graham Farrant said the new, larger unitary authority would be in a better position to lobby the government for more funding for its homelessness work.