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New homes for people in mental health recovery: Diverse support measures help residents achieve an independent life

Illustration of new Mielen Associaton building in Nekala Finland

Mielen Association, a non-profit expert organisation that provides mental health and substance abuse services in Pirkanmaa, has commissioned a new supported accommodation unit in Nekala, Tampere. The apartment building will have 34 new homes for people recovering from mental health issues. The unit’s biggest asset is its location: the plot already houses a maisonette with 16 supported housing apartments as well as the Lideshovi activity centre.

“The new building is located by Lake Lidesjärvi, so some residents will have a view over the lake. The location is also excellent because the unit is only three kilometres from the Tampere city centre”, says Maarit Hirvonen, executive director at Mielen Association.

The new apartments are financed with MuniFin’s social finance and offer supported accommodation for people with mental health issues. The residents are offered daily support, including time with the staff members, conversational therapy and concrete help with everyday living.

“Our clients have very different needs. Some may need help with a single matter, while others require more comprehensive support. For example, our staff may offer conversational therapy to one client, but do housework with another. In addition to support with life management and medication, we can also provide social guidance or help dealing with the paperwork required for social security, for example”, Hirvonen explains.

According to Maarit Hirvonen, executive director at Mielen Association, supported accommodation is a temporary solution that yields good results.

Towards independent living

The new building will only house people recovering from mental health issues. Many residents come to supported accommodation from institutional care, but some transfer from their home and some come through social services.

“Living in supported accommodation is a temporary solution. Most of our residents live with us for a couple of years, moving on to independent living when the time is right. For municipalities, this is an affordable service because supported accommodation produces good results”, Hirvonen says.

Participation and recovery are at the heart of all Mielen Association operations. Residents get to have their say on various things, from the kind of support they need to the forms of groups and activities offered.

“Recovery is the core of our work. We believe that everyone can recover from mental illness. Difficult experiences can help people discover a way of life that is meaningful and good for them. With us, it is the clients who say what they want and how they want it. Our staff members do not tell clients what to do, but instead find a mutual way forward through discussion.”

The successful rehabilitation of the residents has long-term effects. The guidance and support that residents receive may decrease the negative effects of their mental health problems, improve their life management skills and socioeconomic situation, and empower them to live independently.

An apartment of one’s own and opportunities for participation

Mental health issues and substance abuse have increased considerably in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to only aggravate these problems. Tampere and the entire Pirkanmaa region are in dire need of more supported accommodation. In addition to new homes, the new unit will create new jobs and improve the use of existing facilities.

“The need is definitely there! When one resident is moving out, a new one is always moving in. We receive regular inquiries about vacant apartments. Thanks to the new building, we can take on new staff and boost the efficiency of our existing services. It will double our staff and allow us to increase staff time with residents and offer more group activities at the activity centre”, Hirvonen says.

In Nekala, construction work has progressed under lucky stars. The work has gone as planned and right on schedule – even the pandemic has not thrown a spanner in the works.

“Construction work began in late August, and the building has now reached its rooftop height. After the elements have dried off, next up will be the interior. So things are looking good, and the building should be completed in October or November this year”, says Hirvonen contentedly.

The activity centre located next to the new apartments will offer residents various activities. For this reason, most of the new building is dedicated to apartments, and common facilities are limited.

“In addition to apartments, the building will have one communal room and a laundry. Residents can go next door to the activity centre to see other people, grab coffee, read the papers, have lunch or take part in group activities. Saunas are also available next door”, Hirvonen lists.

As the construction work proceeds, the apartments are also beginning to take shape. Hirvonen is very pleased about the new homes. The new building includes many modern solutions and choices that improve the quality of living.

“All the homes will be a nice size, over 30 square metres each. The apartments will have an open-plan kitchen and living room with a dishwasher as well as an alcove or a small bedroom. Large windows make the homes nice and bright. On the apartments overlooking the lake, the view is naturally a nice bonus. The building will be entirely accessible, ensuring easy access with a wheelchair or walker. Modern electric locks also make life easier”, Hirvonen elaborates.

Social finance

MuniFin’s social finance is granted to investments that produce widespread social benefits. Social finance projects impact their surroundings and communities in a positive way: they promote equality, communality, welfare or regional vitality.

Social bonds

Written by Joonas Holste

Virtual photo and work site photo by Mielen Association

Maarit Hirvonen’s photo by Anna-Stiina Saarinen