Harm reduction expert Svala Jóhannesdóttir stated recently in an interview with RÚV that too many unhoused people in the Reykjavík area are forced to rely on parking garages for shelter.
The situation, according to Svala, shows a lack of resources for the homeless in Reykjavík.
According to recent statements by experts at the Healthcare Centre for the Capital Area, parking garages have become injection sites for many of Reykjavík’s unhoused people. One parking garage in particular, by Vesturgata, has been singled out as particularly problematic because it is near a children’s daycare and also housing for the elderly.
A guard was recently hired in the parking garage following an incident where a health centre employee was assaulted in the parking garage.
Although many unhoused people have access to some form of shelter, many have no place to go during the day. Unhoused men, in fact, are forced to leave their shelters during the day, a requirement that has led to protests as winter approaches.
“This is a natural manifestation of the lack of options which is the rule for so many unhoused people in the capital area,” stated Svala to RÚV.
Svala has worked advocating for unhoused people with addiction problems for some 15 years and is one of the founders of Matthildur, an association for harm reduction in Iceland.
She also stated: “There has been a large increase in the number of people who are looking for space in the city’s emergency shelters. The emergency shelters close at 10AM and then open at 5PM. For these seven hours, people have no place to go. We’ve found that for these seven hours, people are simply not in a good place.”
In order to better support people with addiction problems, Svala has called for resources that are available during the day as well.
The number of unhoused people has risen significantly in the last years in the capital area, with increased housing prices, drug problems, and other factors driving the trend. The capital region is also the only municipality in Iceland that provides services to the unhoused, meaning an increased burden for social services in Reykjavík.