More Housing Needed for Unhoused People with Addictions: ‘Living in a Tent in Öskjuhlíð Isn’t a Desirable Situation for Anyone’

Encampments of unhoused people in Öskjuhlíð, a wooded recreation area in Reykjavík, have sparked conversations about shelter and services for at-risk communities in the capital. Vísir reports.

Unhoused individuals, many of whom are dealing with addiction issues, have long resorted to camping in Öskjuhlíð when they cannot find room within one of the city’s shelters. This creates considerable community tension as Öskjuhlíð is also home to Perlan, a local attraction popular with tourists, as well as being a much-used outdoor recreation area. There are also a number of businesses and services in the area, such as a kindergarten.

The Red Cross’s harm reduction unit, known as Frú Ragnheiður, serves the unhoused community in Reykjavík, as well as people with drug addictions.

“Something we always see in the summer is people coming in to get tents and camping equipment from us,” explains Frú Ragnheiður team leader Kristín Davíðsdóttir. “And this is first and foremost because they’re looking for some peace and quiet. These are generally people who are staying in emergency shelters and naturally, there are many people per room in emergency shelters, a lot of stimuli and activity, and people just don’t have any privacy.”

‘We want people to know that there are emergency shelters and other resources available’

Sigþrúður Erla Arnadóttir, manager of the City of Reykjavík’s Westside Welfare Office says that their on-site consulting team was dispatched to Öskjuhlíð as soon as they got word that people were camping there.

“Of course we’re concerned because there are tents there and winter is coming,” says Sigþrúður Erla. “We want to be sure that people know that there are emergency shelters and other resources available.”

As for providing more housing, Sigþrúður Erla notes that there is a housing crisis all over Iceland and that this crisis has an outsized effect on marginalized populations. She says every effort is made to help unhoused individuals find suitable accommodations.

“We’re reviewing the City of Reykjavík’s strategic plan, evaluating the projects that are currently underway, and looking at trouble spots and how we can improve the services that we’re providing to this group,” says Sigþrúður Erla.

‘An emergency shelter should always be a last resort’

Many locals who Vísir spoke to expressed concern about the situation, particularly drug users’ proximity to areas where children like to play. Frú Ragnheiður’s Kristín says there’s a straightforward solution to the problem: more housing.

“If people had housing, they wouldn’t be in this situation, they wouldn’t have to be camping somewhere outside. It’s obvious that living in a tent in Öskjuhlíð isn’t a desirable situation for anyone—if “living” we can call it.”

Frú Ragnheiður is therefore calling on local authorities to put more effort into addressing the situation and providing safe housing for people with addictions. This group has gotten larger in recent years.

“There’s not enough housing,” says Kristín. “An emergency shelter should always be a last resort…But this goes to show that there is a large number of people who don’t have housing and need a place to live. And this is something that’s badly needed. Not just in Reykjavík, but all the surrounding municipalities as well.”

Political Leaders, President Mourn the Passing of Elizabeth II

Iceland Review queen elizabeth

Icelandic politicians took to Twitter last night to pay their respect to Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away yesterday. Among those who paid tribute was President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson who referred to Elizabeth as “the greatest monarch of our times.”

A historic reign comes to an end

Queen Elizabeth II died yesterday at her Scottish estate in Balmoral. Her death at the age of 96 marks the end of a historic 70-year reign. As noted by the BBC, the Queen ascended to the throne in 1952 and witnessed enormous social changes.

Following news of her passing, Icelandic political leaders offered condolences to the royal family, the people of the UK, and the Commonwealth via Twitter. Among those who paid their respect were President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson; PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir; and Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir.

 

 

 

“Where is the forest?”

In June of 1990, Queen Elizabeth II visited Iceland, meeting with political leaders and President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. During her stay, the Queen toured Thingvellir and stopped by “the Friendship Forest” in Kárastaðir, where she provided an apt commentary on the relative triviality of Icelandic forests (excerpt from Iceland Review):

“The red, white and blue of Union Jacks and Icelandic flags fluttered over Reykjavik as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II toured the city on the first day of her visit, June 25, when she was introduced to some of the treasures of Icelandic art and culture … at lunch with the Prime Minister at Thingvellir, the cradle of Iceland’s democracy, the Queen referred to the visit made to Thingvellir in 1874 by her great-great-grandfather, Christian IX of Denmark, when he granted the Icelanders their first modern constitution, the first step on their road to renewed independence. Following lunch and a brief visit to Thingvellir Church, the royal party made their final stop of the country tour to plant trees at the “Friendship Forest,” which was inaugurated this spring at Karastadir. “Where is the forest?” asked Her Majesty in some surprise, as she and the president walked through the low-growing shrubs, which were planted earlier this year by the staff of the various foreign embassies in Reykjavik. Assured by President Finnbogadottir that this would become a true forest given time, the Queen went on to dig in a birch sapling of a healthy size.”

Queen Elizabeth visits Iceland

IR, archive

(Photos: Páll Stefánsson)

Alert Phase Revoked, Three Weeks after Eruption Ceases

iceland eruption 2022

The National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Suðurnes Police, has decided to revoke the Alert Phase that has been in effect due to the volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes peninsula. Three weeks have elapsed since any volcanic activity was detected in the area.

Uncertainty Phase declared

On July 30, an Uncertainty Phase was declared on Reykjanes after a swarm of earthquakes rocked the peninsula. Four days later, on August 3, a volcanic eruption began, as magma began spewing out of several-hundred-metre-long fissures in a lava field near Fagradalsfjall, which had been created by last year’s eruption in the same location. An Emergency Phase was subsequently declared, which was lowered to an Alert Phase in light of the relative smallness of the eruption.

The eruption passed through several phases before all activity ceased on Saturday, August 20. Yesterday, the National Police Commissioner, in consultation with the Suðurnes Police, decided to revoke the Alert and Uncertainty Phases that had been in effect in the area, RÚV reports. Authorities will continue to monitor the area closely, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has announced.

“We can expect intrusion activity and earthquakes in Reykjanes over the coming weeks. Residents are encouraged to secure furniture and other household items to prevent injury and/or damages to their homes,” a press release from the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management reads.

The press release also states that rangers will be positioned at the eruption site to monitor foot traffic. The presence of police and rescue workers will be gradually diminished in the area, although they will be dispatched if needed. Lastly, the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management underscores the hazard of venturing onto the lava, noting that craters and hot lava are protected by nature-preservation laws.