301 People are Homeless in Reykjavík, Mostly Men

downtown Reykjavík

Data from a new City of Reykjavík report shows there are 301 people experiencing homelessness in the city. The figure is a decrease from previous years. Most, or 71%, are men while women are 29% and the majority is between 21-49 years of age. Most homeless people utilise housing resources provided by the city but eight do not. The chairperson of the City’s Welfare Council stated more must be done to meet the needs of that group.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Reykjavík has dropped by 14% since the last count was carried out in 2017. While men make up 71% of homeless people in the city, around 10% are foreign nationals (most also men). Just over half lives in utilises registered housing for the homeless or long-term support housing and around one third stays in short-term emergency housing.

“While it’s of course not happy news to see that there are still 300 people in the city that are considered to be in this group that is homeless, nevertheless they have decreased in number,” stated Heiða Björg Hilmisdóttir, City of Reykjavík Welfare Council chairperson. “It’s good to see that about half of those people are in permanent or temporary housing. That is really our biggest project and policy, to find ways to reach people who are in that situation and find ways to get people into permanent housing.”

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Eight people are currently living out in the open in poor conditions, without any form of shelter that can be called housing. “During this term we made a change so that no one is turned away from emergency shelters due to lack of space. But there are some people who do not consider [the emergency shelters] to meet their needs or don’t trust them. Of course, the project is to find a solution,” Heiða stated.

How Many People in Iceland are Homeless?

homelessness in reykjavík

Unfortunately, Statistics Iceland has not released statistics on homelessness across Iceland since 2011, when they conducted a census which found there were 761 homeless inhabitants of the country. Of that group, 111 were “primary homeless,” meaning living on the street or in similar conditions, while 650 were “secondary homeless,” or moving between temporary shelters such as friends’ homes, emergency accommodation, and hostels. The majority of homeless people were male and were located in the Reykjavík capital region.

“It is difficult to gather accurate information about homeless people,” Statistician Ómar Harðarson from Statistics Iceland told IR. “We did it in connection with the 2011 census due to international obligations to report them. These requirements will not be as strict in the future and therefore it is unclear whether we will make a similar effort.”

The City of Reykjavík, however, released a report in 2021 that found 301 people were experiencing homelessness in the city. This is a decrease of 14% since 2017. According to data from the report, 71% of the individuals were men, and 29% were women, and most were between 21 and 49 years of age. Just over half were living in temporary or long-term housing provided by the city, while around one-third stayed in emergency shelters. Eight people were living in the open, with no shelter that could be considered housing. City authorities agreed that more needed to be done to meet the needs of this group.