There are no concrete numbers or official statistics that show how many people are homeless and what is the real situation with homelessness in Bulgaria. However, there is a trend that can be observed – the numbers are increasing. As of 2013, as many as 1,370 people have been registered in temporary accommodation facilities. The real number is likely much higher since this only accounts for people with government-issued IDs who have signed up in those facilities.

Urban Nomads

There are many reasons and circumstances that lead to people losing their home. The most vulnerable groups of people that end up without shelter are refugees, the Roma minority, elderly people who have become a burden to their families or young adults who have previously been in foster home facilities.

Most of the participants of a survey that Urban Nomads, a project that is aiming at improving living conditions for the homeless in Bulgaria, conducted stated that what they really hope for is a job and a place to stay, contrary to stereotypes some still believe in. The organization believes in the value that homeless people can give to society and are dedicated to helping them by constructing tiny portable houses from recycled materials. People do not just choose to live on the streets and those who are in that situation have been through a lot to end up like that.

Government Addressing Homelessness in Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of the poorest countries in the European Union. According to Eurostat statistics from 2015, 40 percent of the country’s citizens live at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In 2013, there were 13 centers for temporary accommodation in the country that served 442 people, as well as six shelters and 13 centers for homeless children.

The policies designed to tackle the problem operate mainly on the municipal level but there are problems that prevent their success. The major issue with the social services available is the lack of adequate funding and good financial management. To add to this, the coordination and project management also need improvement. As a result, the needs of people exceed what is provided by the country, affecting homelessness in Bulgaria.

Initiatives that Help Homeless People in Bulgaria

Winter, the most difficult time for people who live on the streets, is here,  and there are several initiatives that aim to alleviate homelessness in Bulgaria in these times. Caritas is a nonprofit organization that works with homeless people in Bulgaria. Their goal is to help those who are most vulnerable: refugees, migrants, the elderly and the homeless are helped to lead a fair and dignified life. Along with social centers in major cities they provide mobile services- domestic care for elderly and support for people on the streets. Caritas has helped over 4,000 people in Sofia and provides food, hygiene kits, medicine and assistance.

There are also other initiatives. In Sofia, a restaurant will donate food to those who are in need during the winter. Volunteers from the Bulgarian Red Cross opened a winter dining room in the town of Ruse. They expect to provide warm meals, a bath and clothes to around 40 people in need every day. In Pernik, two rooms from the hospital will be given to homeless people during the cold months, according to the mayor. Dobrich opened the doors to its house of temporary accommodation. The house for homeless people will be open 24 hours a day and has the capacity to house eight people.

These organizations and initiatives, along with government activities, help people who do not have access to the basics of living a dignified life and improve the situation of homelessness in Bulgaria. And truly, everything to make these people suffer less helps, but the issue of homelessness should be tackled on a more structural level by reintegrating these people into society and helping them find a sustainable way of providing for themselves.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr


Vietnam’s homeless children were coined “children of the dust” or “street children” and frequently live in large, bustling cities, like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. However, organizations have initiated direct community engagement and support for street children by building children’s shelters.

According to the Human Rights Watch, there were approximately 23,000 homeless children in Vietnam in 2006. As impoverished families become unable to support their children, many turn to the streets in search of work.

A majority of street children are boys who find cheap labor in cities, such as Hanoi. Common jobs include shoe-shining and street vending in public spaces. Due to the difficulty of maintaining a stable income on the streets, the Human Rights Watch reported that homeless children in Vietnam often earn an estimated 20,000 dong, about $1.25 each day.

To address these growing concerns, four organizations have made progress in aiding Vietnam’s street children.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

Since 2004, the foundation has reached more than 2,000 children and currently has 400 children using their programs. The Step Ahead program focuses on caring for both street and disabled children, using “social workers, lawyers, psychologists, teachers and residential care staff” to provide children’s shelters, tutoring services and legal assistance.

Additionally, the Step Ahead program promotes an outreach team to directly provide healthcare and shelters for homeless children in Vietnam. A drop-in center is also available for children to socialize and meet with social workers.

Family 4

Family 4 currently operates several children’s shelters, which serve as home to 30 children, aged 6 to 18 years. According to Family 4, the children are “orphans, or children from extremely impoverished families whose parents could no longer provide for them.”

Four social workers, called “mothers,” are responsible for establishing a familial environment to create healthy relationships with the children, paying close attention to their health and developmental needs. Education is also encouraged by the shelter, spanning from kindergarten to college.

For example, Dat, a former child at Family 4, received his university degree in Agricultural Engineering and currently works as an organic strawberry farmer. Dat became a member of Family 4 in 2004, after his single mother struggled to afford care for him and his siblings.

Children of Vietnam

The organization focuses on reaching children through education, healthcare, housing, nutrition and disaster relief. For instance, scholarships are distributed for both education supplies and hospital bills.

In 2005, a tutoring program was implemented within the Da Nang Street Children program to increase high school graduation rates. For example, in 2013 alone, the program reached 154 children. Moreover, the Bright Scholars Club formed in 2012 to aid women toward financial stability, allowing greater privileges for their children.

More recently, in 2013, the program built six “new compassion houses,” ten toilets and made housing repairs for four families. Roof repair was also completed at the Hoa Mai orphanage. Children of Vietnam also provided 248 families with disaster relief for floods.

Friends of Hue Foundation

The children’s shelter is just one of several projects supported by this foundation. Founded in 2000, after a serious flooding in Hue, the foundation originally centered its mission on disaster relief, but has since expanded to programs, such as the children’s shelter.

The shelter implements “extracurricular activities and classes such as traditional Vietnamese music, piano, dance and art classes” in addition to career counseling and an English-language program. Since its initiation, the Friends of Hue Foundation has enabled 20 children to leave the shelter and pursue “formal education” and various careers.

“Children of the dust” now have greater access to shelters offering healthcare, education and safety from the streets. As organizations recognize and employ programming for street children, their futures look more hopeful than ever.

– Christine Leung

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Brazil
The biggest country in South America is dealing with one of the most drastic poverty issues on Earth. Despite billions of dollars invested in event tourism like the World Cup (2014) and the Olympics (2016), Brazil’s economy has begun to spiral downward as the country faces its biggest decline in over a decade. These crucial facts about poverty in Brazil offer insight on the issues that plague them.

Poverty in Brazil

  1. The homeless population is revolutionary
    One of the recent facts about poverty in Brazil is that squatters there have collectively chosen to occupy abandoned hotels and are now facing the threat of eviction. One example is the Mauá Occupation, which houses over 1,000 people that make up around 237 families. Mauá was a unique idea back in 2007 when the homeless population was barely surviving on the streets and began taking up land by way of force. Now, it has become a full-blown movement. Like many countries, Brazil suffers from gentrification and increased living costs. Brazil’s gentrification has created a revolution of homeless people occupying space both as a protest and out of necessity. This past November, over 20,000 homeless marched throughout the city in direct protest of the housing inequity.
  2. Slavery ended only 130 years ago; inequality still devastating
    In 1888, Brazil became the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery, and the social, economic and moral ramifications of it still ripple throughout the nation. This is one of the more subtle and lesser spoken facts about poverty in Brazil because it reflects an ugly part of a recent history. Known as Afro-Brasileiros, black and brown Brazilians make up 51 percent of the nation’s population and suffer from discrimination and exclusion more than their lighter-skinned neighbors. Afro-Brasileiros also make up the majority of the homeless and poor population, and only seven percent of the city’s rich self-identify as such. Despite being known as a racial democracy, 80 percent of Brazil’s richest one percent are white, while only 13 percent of black and mixed-race Brazilians between 18 and 24 are currently enrolled in college. Afro-Brasileiro activism takes many forms; the Quilombos are descendants of slaves fighting for reparations. Another group focuses on the disproportions of blacks dying at the hands of Brazilian police. They have the slogan #VidasNegrasImportam, which translates to “Black Lives Matter.”
  3. New spending cap is making matters worse
    The new spending cap, known as PEC 55, will cut public spending for programs that help the poor. A U.N. official lauded it as the most socially regressive austerity package in the world. With 60 percent of Brazilians opposing it, the 20-year spending freeze inducted by President Temer has been protested and deemed a direct attack on the poor by many analysts.
  4. Unemployment was once slow growing; now it’s much faster
    Since the end of the World Cup in 2014, Brazil’s economy has been steadily declining to a new low. Unemployment grew from about six percent in December 2013 to nearly 12 percent in November 2016, despite almost 30 million Brazilians rising out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. Economic inequality is now expected to increase and around 2.5 million more Brazilians will be forced into poverty in the coming years.
  5. Water everywhere but not much to drink
    Roughly 20 percent of the world’s water supply is in Brazil yet much of the population suffers from a water shortage. The problem is that water is being used to power the economy, not the people. This is actually one of the older facts about poverty in Brazil, as the nation’s water misallocation has always been notoriously underserving. More than 60 percent of the nation’s energy is from hydropower plants while 72 percent of the water supply is consumed by agriculture via irrigation. In fact, Brazil is one of the most water-dependent nations in the world. More than eight percent of its GDP is agriculture and agroindustries, making it the world’s second-largest food exporter. Allocation of most of the nation’s water goes to the business sectors, and between 2004 and 2013, there was only a 10 percent increase in sanitation networks among the poorest 40 percent (i.e., households with toilets).
  6. From an emerging economy to a shrinking one
    Formerly an emerging economy growing at a rate of 7.5 percent in 2010, it shrunk at about the same rate over the last two years. Shrinkage is expected to increase due to President Temer’s privatization plan, and around 57 state assets are set to undergo a privatized makeover. From highways to airports and even the national mint, the privatization is in an effort to increase employment and improve quality of the service provided by the sectors. There is some proof that this could work; back in the 90s, the privatization lead to the considerable modernization of several crucial sectors. The best possible scenario still leaves the majority of the population, specifically the poorest, out of the financial loop.  Attracting international interests is great for the richest population looking to sell land to the highest bidder which happens to be China.
  7. Deforestation of the Amazon by China hurts locals directly
    China’s overwhelming demand for food meets Brazil’s immense agricultural production in a way that primarily benefits the wealthiest of Brazil. The Brazilian government has been selling off large parts of the Amazon to China directly, ironically in an effort to help China’s pollution while hurting Brazil’s sensitive ecology and economy. China’s deforestation of the Amazon temporarily increases employment in Brazilian cities near the forest, but then once first stages of production are over, massive layoffs result in a plummet of employment with the social climate (increased crime and violence) going with it. The massive deforestation even threatens Brazil’s ecological promises involved with the Paris Agreement.
  8. Infant mortality has dropped significantly but could be lower
    As of 2016, Brazil has significantly lowered it’s infant mortality rate from about 53 deaths per 1,000 (circa 1990) live births to about 14. While this is quite an achievement for such a developing country with so many social problems, UNICEF, the organization most responsible for helping the decline, remarked that the indigenous children of Brazil’s mortality rate is twice as high as those of city-born children. This shows that even for countries with relatively low levels of mortality, greater efforts to reduce disparities at the sub-national level are still needed. According to UNICEF, back in 2013 at least 32 municipalities still had an infant mortality rate of 80 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  9. Worker’s Unions are going extinct
    A recent law passed by President Temer allows employers to bypass nearly all hurdles set up by unions by eliminating a “union tax” that generates funding for worker’s unions. Designed to aid multinational corporations and not workers, the “reform” has been criticized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) as being in violation of international conventions. This permits inhumane working conditions and legalizes free labor. Legislation changes like this alter the future of the Brazilian workforce exponentially as multinational companies begin their migration into the Amazon.
  10. The right conditions for slavery
    Temer altered the definition of slavery so that it is defined by the victim’s freedom to leave. Meaning if a worker is kept in all the same living conditions as slavery, but not being physically forced to stay, it is to be considered legal labor. This is an emerging fact about poverty in Brazil because it has not happened yet, but legislatively, the absurd conditions do exist and the threat of slave labor is very real. This critical alteration of the definition has lead to the need for deeper investigations and, in alignment with the new changes, requires a police report with every case, creating more complications with each case. This drastically hurts the effectiveness of the ILOs ongoing fight against slavery which saw the liberation of more than 30,000 slaves in Brazil since 2003. The migration of businesses to the Amazon has made investigations much harder for the ILO and the conditions under which slaves work have gotten more brutal as well.

– Toni Paz
Photo: Flickr

Scotland’s Eco-Village for the Homeless
Eco-villages are defined as communities whose members seek to live lives that have as little impact on the environment as possible. These communities have been popping up all over the globe for years now, their inhabitants dedicated to being more socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. Eco-village for the homeless can provide a safe environment for people to get back on their feet before looking for permanent housing.

There can be many environmental, economic, social and health benefits to living in an eco-village. The communities encourage local economies in rural areas and often farm unprocessed and pesticide free produce. The villages reduce the release of CO2 and provide a natural habitat for indigenous ecosystems. The communities also promote less noise pollution and better air quality.

In Scotland, a local charity organization plans to implement an eco-village with the purpose of providing safe temporary housing for the homeless.

In 2015, there were over 28,000 homeless living in Scotland. Social Bite recognized the seriousness of Scotland’s homeless population back in 2012 and has been tackling social issues through business ever since.

The organization currently runs 5 different cafes throughout Scotland. The cafes run a “suspended” coffee and food program, where customers can pay for an extra beverage or lunch for a homeless person to enjoy later.

Social Bite is also conscious about employing vulnerable members of the community. A quarter of their employees were once homeless and 100 percent of the businesses profits go toward solving social problems.

Social Bite’s most recent endeavor involves the construction of an eco-village for the homeless in Edinburgh. The village is set to be made up of 10 homes that are capable of housing up to 20 people. The city council spends about $21,000 annually to provide housing and food for one person at a shelter, so the village is expected to save the government massive amounts of money.

Aside from being fiscally beneficial and sustainable, the eco-village community will also provide basic social resources. This includes job training, therapy, financial advice, literacy training and basic education. The goal of the services is to help the tenants directly as they work to move onto more permanent accommodations.

Construction on the village is set to begin in early 2017 and is expected to be up and running by the upcoming summer. Aside from being ecologically friendly, the buildings will also be completely transportable and mobile if necessary.

Social Bite and their dedication to humanitarian work have attracted the attention of celebrities such as George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio visited one of Social Bites locations this November to help raise awareness for the organization’s cause.

Overall, the construction of Scotland’s first eco-village for the homeless will provide a frugal and effective way of combating social stigma and homelessness in the country.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr