5 Misconceptions about HomelessnessHomelessness affects every corner of the world. In 2019, it was estimated that 150 million people are homeless, while more than 1.6 billion lack access to adequate housing. Despite its prevalence, many have inaccurate perceptions about the nature of homelessness. The homeless population has exceedingly high barriers to overcome their circumstances. To uplift people suffering from homelessness, others must first educate themselves on the many misconceptions about homelessness. Here are five common misconceptions about homelessness.

5 Misconceptions About Homelessness

  1. “Background does not affect homelessness.” The circumstances surrounding homelessness are widespread and cannot be pinpointed. However, certain sets of conditions make homelessness more likely. For example, causes of homelessness could involve displacement, conflict, natural disasters, mental illness, family strife, gentrification, rapid urbanization and lack of affordable housing. Millions of people in Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and elsewhere are displaced by terrorism or natural disasters. These conditions are largely uncontrollable and unavoidable. Homeless people can be put in this situation through no choice of their own. Unfortunately, the cycle of poverty may continue because of a person’s social, economic or geographical background.
  2. “Most people are homeless because of addiction.” While drugs can be a cause, it is more likely that addiction develops after one becomes homeless. People suffering from homelessness can fall into alcohol and drug abuse to numb their reality. A study conducted in Australia concluded that only 3% of homelessness was caused by addiction, while the major cause of homelessness was a lack of housing at 45%. Addiction can become a coping mechanism for people in negative situations, like homelessness. The stigma about substance abuse and homelessness make treatment for addiction less likely for people in this difficult situation.
  3. “Homeless people should just find a job.” To find and keep a job, people usually need to have a resume, reliable access to transportation, clean clothes to wear and have a means of contact like a cell phone. Homeless people often cannot fill out job applications without these requirements. Even with all of these resources, it may not be fixing the underlying issues of the cycle of chronic homelessness. Securing a job might happen, but recurring issues might deter people from stabilizing any income source. It is a definite misperception that homeless people are lazy and should find a job. The fact is, simply finding a job is harder than it may seem.
  4. “There are enough services to support the homeless.” The majority of services created for serving the homeless are pinpointed to shelter and food. While these services are valuable, they do not address larger institutional barriers to break a poverty cycle. Job support, healthcare, affordable housing and family services are a few less obtainable amenities. Solutions to homelessness must include temporary and long-term services for rehabilitation. In addition, urban centers are more likely to have services for the homeless, while access is particularly limited in rural areas. To create more permanent methods of relief, organizations must approach homelessness holistically.
  5. “Homelessness cannot be solved.” There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but community responsibility for the homeless can have a great impact. Finland is an excellent example of community change causing a decrease in homelessness. In the past 15 years, the numbers have decreased by about 40%. From individually tailored solutions, affordable housing, policy changes and local support, Finland is building strong networks that are creating tangible results. Prevention will also be a crucial step in solving global homelessness. By tackling causes of homelessness through intervention programs, a decrease in global homelessness is likely. It is a clear misconception about homelessness that this problem is inevitable and unfixable.

After challenging these stereotypes, people can begin to humanize the homeless population and do more work to solve this epidemic. Abandoning these five misconceptions about homelessness is a great way to start to challenge stereotypical beliefs. If people learn more about truths concerning homelessness, society can reshape and redefine the solutions to this problem.

Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Homelessness in UkraineUkraine, a former Soviet Republic, currently has the 112th largest GDP per capita in the world. However, Ukraine’s economy has lagged behind those of other European powers and is considered to be a developing country. Experiencing wars and widespread poverty, Ukraine’s homeless population has grown in recent years, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are five facts you need to know about homelessness in Ukraine.

5 Things to Know About Homelessness in Ukraine

  1. The number of homeless people in Ukraine is unknown: The Ukrainian government only counts the homeless population who qualify for government aid. As such, many NGOs, including the Ukrainian Social Fund Partnership, and other experts estimate that the homeless population in Ukraine was over 200,000 in 2015. With a 9.2% unemployment rate pre-COVID-19 and 1.5 million people in Ukraine living below the poverty line, these figures are likely understated. However, if these estimates are to be believed, Ukraine would have one of the highest rates of homelessness in Europe with a similar homelessness rate to that of countries like Peru and Guatemala. The level of homelessness in Ukraine is difficult to track due to a lack of adequate government surveillance and social services available for homeless individuals to use.
  2. The war with Russia has increased the homeless population: Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, 2,777 civilians have been killed. The military conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also left an estimated 1.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) as civilians have fled conflict zones to the relative safety of Kyiv. Made up largely of ethnic minorities, the large amount of internally displaced persons within Ukraine gives the country the most amount of IDPs in the world. The United Nations Refugee Agency and other organizations have provided shelter to these refugees in an effort to prevent them from becoming homeless. Additionally, in 2019, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill to increase funds for affordable housing for displaced persons, providing housing for 800 IDP families. Despite these efforts, the Ukrainian refugee crisis has undoubtedly contributed to homelessness in Ukraine although exact numbers are unknown. However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) did report that in 2019, it failed to provide shelter and other needs for between 8000 to 9000 internally displaced families in Ukraine.
  3. Leftover Soviet-era policies discriminate against homelessness in Ukraine: During Soviet-era Ukraine government documents called propiska served as a form of internal passport to allow access to social services and travel within the Soviet Union. Although these documents were abolished in name by the Ukrainian government in 1997, residence permits serving the same function as propiska are still used. Ethnic minorities like Roma, displaced persons and the homeless are not issued these documents due to a lack of residency. These documents serve the same purpose as the Soviet documentation once did and as such, Ukrainians still refer to them as propiska. Without propiska, the homeless population in Ukraine does not have access to public housing, homeless shelters, unemployment benefits, food coupons, employment, childcare or the right to vote. This practice of issuing government identification only to those with homes has often been criticized by organizations like the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) for deliberately discriminating against impoverished and minority communities.
  4. Social aid has become more restrictive: In April of 2016, a spokesperson from the NGO Narondna Dopomoga revealed to the Kyiv Post that they were no longer being allowed by the government to register homeless people for propiska. Previously, a homeless person was able to register via a homeless shelter or center and would gain access to social payments from the government and employment opportunities. However, with new legislation, the homeless are required to have a place of residence (which may include a semi-permanent bed at a shelter) in order to apply for these benefits. These restrictions have been criticized for appealing to anti-homeless sentiments within Ukrainian society.
  5. Several NGOs are stepping up in the absence of government assistance: Because Ukraine is a conflict zone with one of the worst economies in the world, the Ukrainian government lacks the ability to adequately respond to the country’s homelessness crisis. However, because the country receives a large amount of aid from the United Nations and its partner NGOs, there have been some efforts to combat homelessness in Ukraine. For example, the Ukrainian Charity Fund Social Partnership in Kyiv has a center where thousands of homeless come each day. Here they receive food, medical assistance, facilities to clean themselves, laundromats and access to recreational facilities. Helping the homeless youth, ex-convicts and refugees who come through, the Ukrainian Charity Fund Social Partnership also helps these groups to find employment that does not require propiska. Other organizations like Depaul provide shelter for the homeless, especially those fleeing conflict zones in eastern Ukraine as well as homeless mothers and their children.

Due to its struggling economy and war with Russia, Ukraine has suffered an increase in the homeless population in the past few years. Ranging from the unemployed to internally displaced people, government policy often discriminates against those without homes. However, with the intervention of U.N. organizations and other NGOs, homelessness in Ukraine is being addressed. With shelters, jobs and other facilities being provided, many homeless people are being tended to although much is still yet to be done on the part of the Ukrainian government.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Homelessness in IrelandDespite being among the wealthiest countries in the world, Ireland has struggled to address its homelessness crisis. Since 2008, when the country encountered a difficult economic crisis that struck the housing market with rising rent prices and ceased construction efforts to expand housing, Ireland’s homeless population has only grown into a greater national problem. Protests have erupted across the country and the government has stepped in to address the housing crisis with its “Rebuilding Ireland” program designed to create additional housing units to protect people from homelessness. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness numbers are reflecting a decline that hasn’t been seen in years.

5 Things to Know About Homelessness in Ireland

  1. Lingering Effects of Ireland’s “Lost Decade”: Similar to the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S., Ireland had its own housing bubble which burst in 2008, setting off a decade-long housing crisis. With Ireland’s housing market dropped in price by 54%, the housing construction was forced to a standstill and Irish banks were swarmed with debt. The effects of the crisis dubbed this period of recession the “lost decade”—a time when rising rent costs turned many people to the streets, and unemployment and poverty rose. St. Vincent de Paul, the largest charity in Ireland which provides aid and shelter to the homeless, was fielding double their usual number of calls during the first two years after the crisis. More than a decade later, Ireland is still struggling to recover from the impacts of the housing crisis.
  2. Housing is Not Affordable: A report released by the Irish Homebuilders Association (IHBA) stated the time required for a potential homeowner to save a downpayment could take more than 15 years in some cities in Ireland, including Dublin and Galway. In fact, Dublin has become one of the most expensive cities in the world to pay rent. High rents that consume large portions of an individual’s income tied with limited housing availability are two factors that contribute to the challenges of saving for future home-ownership. Rising rent prices show no signs of slowing down, either, with a 17% rent increase predicted for the upcoming years. Although tenants may manage to pull together their monthly rents, homelessness does not elude all renters: The majority of people who become homeless previously lived in privately rented areas.
  3. Homelessness Rates Shows Signs of Declining Amid COVID-19: Homelessness has been rising for several years since the crisis, growing into a national concern and reality for many people in Ireland. However, recently homelessness numbers dropped to their lowest levels since 2017. In May 2020, it was reported that 8,876 people were affected by homelessness, the first time this number has fallen below 9,000 people in the last three years. This decrease is likely from the emergency accommodations recently implemented to support the most vulnerable of Ireland’s population during the pandemic. Throughout Ireland, 600 places were made available that would allow people to self-isolate and maintain social distancing. However, once COVID-19 restrictions in Ireland are lifted, it is possible these numbers could rise to even higher rates as housing construction projects are delayed even further.
  4. Young Adult Homelessness Rates are High: Young adults are one of the groups most impacted by the housing crisis In Ireland. According to Focus Ireland, an organization that helps young people out of homelessness, the number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 afflicted by homelessness has increased by 31% since June 2015. But Focus Ireland also points out this figure is likely an underestimate. Official homelessness figures don’t account for the number of young people who seek out friends and family for a temporary place to stay rather than homeless shelters and services—“the forgotten homeless,” as Focus Ireland classifies this group. Young adults who grew up in the aftermath of the housing and financial crisis now face steep rents that hinder their abilities to save for buying a home, an emblem of adulthood.
  5. Ireland’s High Housing Demands: One of the root causes of homelessness in Ireland stems from the country’s inadequate supply of affordable housing. The percentage of households renting privately owned homes has doubled in demand over the past decade, limiting available housing and causing rent prices to climb. Construction efforts to build additional housing are not keeping up with demand either. In response, Ireland’s government installed the “Rebuilding Ireland” program in 2016, an initiative aimed at adding 25,000 housing units per year. According to the 2019 Housing Conference, the program met 74% of its 2018 annual target. However, Focus Ireland believes a solution to Ireland’s housing crisis resides in providing affordable public housing, which the country currently lacks. Public housing can give families and individuals burdened by high rents or eviction notices a humane and affordable option. Although housing, a personal right in Ireland, is slim, supporting the expansion of public housing could be the solution to actualizing this right and creating a stable future for all those who live in Ireland.

As reflected in Ireland’s recently reported figures, homelessness is on the decline. If the “Rebuilding Ireland” program fulfills its established mission of building additional housing, homelessness in Ireland could be combatted even further. Combined with Ireland’s successful response to sheltering the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness in Ireland is showing promising signs of being a resolved issue throughout the country.

Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr 

Access to Showers
Many people consider showering to be a basic human right – and the United Nations General Assembly certainly agrees. In 2010, the assembly classified The Human Right to Water and Sanitation as a human right. Yet not everyone has equal access to showers and sanitation; individuals who are part of marginalized groups, such as the homeless, often have limited access to showers. Ensuring that all individuals have access to forms of sanitation such as showering is essential to creating a more equal society.

The Importance of Showers

According to a 2017 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, access to sanitation methods such as showering is necessary for good health and hygiene. Individuals who do not have access to showers and thus shower only occasionally are at risk for diseases and infections such as ectoparasite infestations like lice. A study of homeless populations in Europe who took infrequent showers showed that they had a higher risk of developing these infestations, which included scabies, fleas and head lice. In Mexico, a homeless man named Fernando told El Universal that he had not “had a proper shower in 14 years,” saying that he and other homeless individuals near Puente Negro only had access to the unclean, pungent waters of the Tijuana canal in which to bathe themselves.

Though many homeless individuals adamantly seek out showers and other forms of maintaining hygiene, individuals who sleep outdoors or participate in substance use are at greater risk of being unable to regularly access showers and sanitation. In Boston, Massachusetts, homeless individuals who were able to shower regularly usually gained access to showers through a family member’s or friend’s home (20% reported this) or a day shelter (another 20% reported this). Yet those who do not have family or friends whom they can turn to or those who sleep on the streets may have a more difficult time gaining access to showers.

Mobile Showers: A Growing Industry

In June 2014, a nonprofit organization called Lava Mae emerged. Lava Mae founder Doniece Sandoval created mobile showers and toilets for the homeless population of San Francisco out of a retired bus, saying that if food could be delivered through mobile means, “why not showers…?” Since then, Lava Mae has built a “worldwide support network,” and 163 global communities have formed 190 mobile hygiene programs after receiving training and inspiration from Lava Mae.

By 2020, Lava Mae has provided 32,000 homeless people in California with 78,000 showers. Those who receive mobile showers receive shampoo, a towel, soap and socks – and they maintain privacy in a shower stall. Lava Mae has even created a hygiene toolkit that anyone can download if they wish to start their own mobile hygiene service in a community.

Iglesia Ancla (Anchor Church)

Other organizations are providing the homeless with mobile showers as well. In Tijuana, Mexico, a church called Iglesia Ancla (Anchor Church) started a mobile shower service in August 2018 to help homeless individuals have access to showers. Members of the church took an old cargo van and renovated it to contain three bathrooms with a shower, mirror, toilet and sink. This van travels to areas where homeless populations concentrate two times a week and provides them with shampoo, soap, a towel and a change of clothes.

Puente Negro Mexico News Daily reported that one homeless man in Puente Negro experienced shock at hearing that he would be able to take a shower through the church’s mobile shower program, saying that he might be able to “get a job” and that he almost fainted in the heat.

Orange Sky Laundry

Similarly, another organization, Orange Sky Laundry, is working in Australia and New Zealand to give mobile showers to the homeless. With a setup of 21 vans in Australia, the organization, founded in 2014 by Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, is currently managing 15-20 loads of washing and showers daily. About 116,000 Australians are homeless, and in Auckland, New Zealand, where the vans have set up, about 1,000 people sleep outside – a factor that, as mentioned previously, limits people from access to showers and increases the risk of infection.

Next, Orange Sky Laundry plans to expand its operation. Orange Sky Laundry plans to expand its organization to serve the homeless in the U.S., the U.K. and Greece. Marchesi and Pratchett, who have already powered through several hurdles – including broken laundry machines – to successfully deliver mobile showers, hope that their “homeless friends (can) transition back into being connected into the community again.”

Concluding Notes

These mobile shower organizations are imperative in helping the homeless, particularly those who live and sleep on the streets. Increased access to showers links to lower rates of infectious diseases – and helping the homeless around the world is necessary for achieving a greater form of equality. Many homeless individuals, including military veterans, use mobile laundry services such as Lava Mae to shower on a regular basis. Staying clean on the streets is not always possible or easy, as one veteran, Silas Borden, mentioned in Reader’s Digest. Therefore, these mobile laundry services can bring benefits to many communities around the world.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in israelHomelessness in Israel has been a rising problem in the country. Much homelessness in Israel is a byproduct of ongoing poverty that many Israelis face. In 2017, the poverty rate rose from 19.4% to 20.4% in 2018. Unfortunately, children make up a significant proportion of impoverished people in Israel. With Israel having many people on the streets without a place to call home, homeless Israelis are dying. Many homeless people have been killed over the last decade in Israel as well.

Lack of Assistance

One problem facing homelessness in Israel is the country’s failure to prioritize assistance for the homeless. Those who are homeless or struggling to meet their rental payments don’t receive enough benefits from the Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to make ends meet. Specifically, Social Affairs and the Social Ministry only offer 1,632 shekels a month to these people who meet the requirements for aid. This equals $436 a month. Further, the maximum amount of money these services offer to victims of homelessness and poverty is 1,735 shekels a month. This equals $464 a month for a single person.

These living conditions make it challenging for poor Israelis to stay out of the streets. Moreover, this system helps less than half of homeless people in Israel. The other half don’t qualify because they can’t document that they are homeless. However, it is not easy for people on the street to support their claim easily. Even so, they still need any help they can receive to fight homelessness in Israel.

Fatality Rates Among the Homeless

Many people who find themselves on the street in Israel aren’t just financially hurt but are physically in danger, too. Many homeless people live in close proximity to others in the same situation. Additionally, many lack the funds to purchase treatment when they get sick, which is especially concerning during the pandemic.

As of 2018, 610 homeless people have died on the streets of Israel. Different diseases and viruses can be a major cause of death for those who die on the streets. Homeless people often suffer the same illnesses as others, but their death rate is three times higher. These circumstances can also make homeless people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Indeed, as of October 2020, Israel has 126,419 cases of COVID-19. So far, 100,357 people have recovered and 993 have died.

Tackling Homelessness in Israel

Homelessness in Israel may seem impossible to eradicate, but many organizations are working to do just that. For example, the Israel Homeless Association (IHA) and shelters for the homeless have become safe havens for homeless people. The Lasova nonprofit organization and the Health Ministry have also provided a “home” to those on the streets. These organizations give them access a safe place to sleep. Around 1,900 people who are victims of homelessness in Israel are receiving aid from the Health Ministry. The IHA targets areas that are most at risk and ignored by the Israeli government. Recently, the collapse of the country’s safety net has caused the IHA charity to put its money into assisting struggling families.

Three years in a row, the IHA has provided clothes for the homeless in Israel registered with the Homeless Offices of Beer Sheva and Eilat. Additionally, the IHA, with the help of other service organizations, helped relocate seven families to a higher quality of living conditions. One hundred thirty kids in the Negev region who are homeless have received over $7,500 worth of toys from the IHA.

The work of organizations like the IHA provides a glimmer of hope among the crisis of homelessness in Israel. During the pandemic, the fact that homelessness puts many people at risk of death and disease is especially significant. Organizations and the Israeli government must work together to tackle this issue.

– Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in EstoniaIn the mid-90s and early 2000s, Estonia, a country in Northern Europe, oversaw a housing reform. This reform sought to improve the living conditions for Estonians and reduce the number of people who were experiencing homelessness in Estonia. Here’s the situation today:

6 Facts About Homelessness in Estonia

  1. A small percentage of Estonians are homeless – The Institute of Global Homelessness reported that around 864 Estonians were homeless in 2011, which amounts to 0.06% of the population. However, in 2018, the European Journal of Homelessness estimated that 1.5% of Estonians are homeless, which amounts to between 1,900 and 2,100 people.
  2. Unemployment can be a major influence on homelessness in Estonia – A 2014 study in the European Journal of Homelessness found that 5.5% of Estonians are unemployed (2% of which reside in Tallinn, the capital.)
  3. Alcohol dependency can inhibit self-subsistence – The percentage of Estonians who are homeless with mental health issues is increasing, and some of these issues may result from alcohol dependency, alongside other factors. Alcoholism can make it more difficult for people who are trying to gain self-sufficiency.
  4. Testing (for respiratory diseases such as COVID-19) is insufficient for homeless shelters in many European countries – People in shelters who test positive for airborne illnesses must be isolated, according to a report by members of the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA), yet self-isolation is not always easy in shelters. In an Estonian shelter, after one individual in the shelter tested positive for COVID-19, testing was made available for the other residents, and 56% of those who lived in the shelter tested positive as well. FEANTSA argues that “housing must be reaffirmed as a human right” in order to help those who are experiencing homelessness in Estonia.
  5. Certain shelters and programs provide the homeless with residential services – Shelters like the one in Nõmme District in Tallinn provide the homeless in Estonia with a resocialization plan where residents work on gaining work skills to be able to afford residential spaces of their own. Half of the shelter’s residents pay their own fees that they gained from employment to stay in the shelter, and if a resident cannot pay, the city pays on his/her behalf. This plan lasts for six months, though residents are allowed to stay for longer if they aren’t able to afford their own place of residence at that time.
  6. Housing has improved for Estonians since the 90s – In 1989, there were more households in Estonia than there were residences. From 1994-2004, a housing reform took place, and by 2011, the number of residences was 16% greater than the number of households. Though factors such as rising rental costs can still make it hard for a struggling family to afford to live in their own residence, living conditions have improved overall.

As Estonia’s government has been working to reduce homelessness, programs that have helped reform housing have been effective in reducing homelessness in Estonia since the 1990s. Yet there is still work to be done – lessening the situations which cause homelessness is imperative.

Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

Homelessness in New Zealand
New Zealand is a high-income country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. In 2019, New Zealand’s GDP per capita was $42,084, a number almost identical to the United Kingdom’s GDP per capita. Despite this high level of wealth, an increasing number of New Zealanders are facing homelessness. New Zealand’s definition of homelessness includes people living in temporary residences or uninhabitable conditions, those sharing a residence with another household and those sleeping in cars or on the streets.

10 Facts About Homelessness in New Zealand

  1. About 1% of New Zealanders are homeless. New Zealand’s homelessness rate is the highest among the 35 high-income countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). It is important to note, however, that New Zealand’s definition of homelessness, as explained above, is much broader than many other nations. Those living on the streets face additional dangers, especially as it gets colder. As a result, many homeless New Zealanders have died on the streets during recent winters.
  2. The recent housing crisis has contributed to the high rate of homelessness in New Zealand. The price of renting or buying a home in New Zealand has been on the rise in recent years. For instance, in the country’s largest city, Auckland, housing prices climbed 90% from 2008 to 2018. In January 2020, the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey examined eight housing markets in New Zealand, and ranked them all as “severely unaffordable.” Due to these increasing prices, many find themselves unable to afford a permanent home, even if they have employment.
  3. Applications for public housing increased by 47% from 2019 to 2020. According to a report by New Zealand’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, 11,607 people applied for government-provided public housing in the first quarter of 2019. One year later, that number jumped to 16,309. As this number continues to grow, more New Zealanders are unable to find a stable residence.
  4. The Auckland region had the highest number of housing applicants. As of March 2020, 6,086 Auckland residents were on the housing register, awaiting a response to their request for public housing. The Wellington region, which includes the country’s capital, had the second-highest number of housing applicants.
  5. Housing applicants faced long wait times for public housing. On average, a housing applicant waited for public housing 213 days in March 2020. This wait time represented an increase from the previous year, where the average time was only 172 days.
  6. A disproportionate number of housing applicants were of Maori ethnicity. In March 2020, 48% of housing applicants identified themselves as Maori, the indigenous people of mainland New Zealand. This number is significant considering that only 16.5% of the general population are considered of Maori descent according to the 2018 census. Therefore, the Maori people are disproportionately likely to be homeless.
  7. The New Zealand government has been aware of the country’s problem with homelessness. In 2017, Jacinda Ardern became the prime minister of New Zealand. Despite her promise to address the issue once in office, homelessness in New Zealand has increased under her leadership. Additionally, the number of people applying for public housing has broken previously high records.
  8. In 2020, the government launched the Aotearoa New Zealand Homelessness Action Plan. The plan strives to both reduce and prevent homelessness in New Zealand and will continue through 2023. The government hopes to support over 10,000 people who are either at risk or already homeless. The Homelessness Action Plan is an important step forward in the government’s fight against homelessness. Though the plan may not aid New Zealand’s entire homeless population, it can help a great majority.
  9. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit New Zealand, the government worked to provide shelter to those living on the streets. As New Zealand’s national lockdown began, the government opened motel rooms to homeless New Zealanders who had previously been living on the streets. The government made this decision in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, as a result, it has also virtually eliminated the cities’ problem of “rough sleeping,” or homeless people sleeping or living outdoors.
  10. Moving forward, the government plans to provide for many of the country’s homeless. After the national lockdown ends, what will happen to the New Zealanders who had been living on the streets? The government has pledged to ensure that 1,200 motel rooms remain available for homeless New Zealanders until April 2021. There are many other homeless New Zealanders not in this category, and the government seems to be looking out for them as well. The May 2020 federal budget included plans to construct 8,000 new public housing places. With luck, these new construction projects will help housing applicants find a home.

Only time will tell how homelessness in New Zealand may change as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. The hope is that the government’s recent actions will provide protection to those living on the streets, while also preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The government’s construction plans also have the potential to provide housing to many homeless New Zealanders, securing a brighter future for both the individuals and the country.

 – Emily Dexter
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty eradication in ItalyMany programs are working toward innovations in poverty eradication in Italy. These programs include an income program instated by the government, a fuel poverty program partnership between two companies and charities that provide assistance to the needy. Here are four facts about innovations in poverty eradication in Italy:

4 Facts About Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Italy

  1. Italy’s welfare program: In 2019, Italy introduced a €7 billion income welfare program to help reduce poverty. As of 2018, 5.1 million people in Italy lived in poverty. This program targets those people, as well as Italian citizens, EU citizens and legal residents living in Italy for 10 years or more. Households whose annual income is equal to or below €9,360 are eligible. Those eligible receive €780 a month, which can help pay for essentials such as grocery, rent and utilities. In the program, individuals who are able-bodied are also required to sign up for job placement and training programs. Employers who hire individuals taking part in the program receive financial incentives.
  2. Reducing fuel poverty: Fuel poverty is present in Italy, but so are programs to help tackle it. Fuel poverty is defined by the European Energy Poverty Observatory as “the inability to keep the home adequately warm at an affordable cost.” This affects more than 3.9 million Italians per year. A U.K.-based company called PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partnered with an international organization, Ashoka, to reduce low-income families living in fuel poverty in Italy. The project relies on social innovators and entrepreneurs to find novel methods of tackling fuel poverty and reducing it in Italy.
  3. Food stamps: Italian programs for food assistance are giving out free meals and food stamps. Particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, many Italians are facing unemployment, and about one million are in need of food assistance. Programs such as the Ronda della Solidarieta charity, which offers free dinners twice a week in Rome to those in need, and the Nona Roma association, which drops off boxes filled with food necessities to low-income Roman families, are helping reduce the amount of people who go hungry. In 2020, the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, delegated €400 million for food stamps.
  4. Charities: Charities for the homeless and low-income are attempting to provide resources such as food and health items to those in need. The COVID-19 crisis can be especially difficult for homeless Italians, as closed restaurants and bars provide less access for them to wash their hands. Similarly, it can be difficult to obtain food while social distancing, and homeless people are sometimes stopped by the police for not abiding by quarantine laws. The Community for St. Egidio is a charity that keeps their soup kitchen open, and they distribute 2,500 meals per week. They are also seeking donations for face masks, hand sanitizers and food. 

There is still a long way to go in eradicating poverty in Italy, and COVID-19 may worsen the plight of low-income families in Italy. However, it is still important to note these programs as they help families in need and create innovations in poverty eradication in Italy.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Unsplash

plastic bottles solve homelessnessOverconsumption of plastic, especially by Americans, is a recurring problem for the environment. ReuseThisBag.com, a supplier of wholesale reusable and recycled eco-friendly promotional bags, reports that Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. In addition, a 2010 report by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) states that plastic waste makes up roughly 80% of the world’s ocean pollution. With an overabundance of plastic bottles drifting both in water and on land, can recovered plastic bottles solve homelessness?

Plastic Bottles Solve Homelessness with Affordable and Durable Homes

Constructing homes using plastic bottles is not a new concept, but it’s gained traction in recent years in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. The approach is solving two problems in one. By recovering plastic waste, particularly bottles, from areas where they contribute to pollution and compromise wildlife habitats, this concept helps the environment. Additionally, this project uses plastic bottles to solve homelessness by providing long-term shelter for individuals facing housing insecurity.

Nigeria provides an example of both benefits of this approach. The eco-based website Treehugger wrote, “In Nigeria, millions of plastic bottles are dumped into waterways and landfill[s] each year causing pollution, erosion, irrigation blockages, and health problems.” In addition, there are roughly 24.4 million homeless people in Nigeria. About 70% of people in the nation’s capital, Lagos, reside in informal and unstable housing. As many as 300,000 Lagosians struggle with housing insecurity and homelessness due to the government’s attempt to curb urban population growth. It’s estimated that Nigeria will need 16 million new homes to eliminate its housing crisis.

The Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE), a Nigerian nonprofit organization, is stepping in to construct eco-friendly homes created from plastic bottles. The homes not only provide environmental protection and durability, but they are also fireproof, earthquake-proof and bulletproof.

The bottle wall technique was developed by German firm Ecotec Environmental Solutions (Ecotec Soluciones Ambientales). Other countries using this approach include Algeria, Honduras, Brazil and Argentina. Ecotec Environmental Solutions trains residents to collect water bottles before filling them with sand. They then stack the bottles side-by-side, layering them to create a wall. With each layer, mud or cement mix binds the bottles to create a solid structure that is 20 times stronger than a brick-based house. Each home requires about 14,000 plastic bottles.

Enough Plastic Bottles to Solve Global Homelessness

Plastic water bottles account for 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, with about 80% of bottles being discarded like garbage and not recycled or upcycled. Scientists predict that if the world’s citizens continue to pollute the Earth with plastic at the current rate, eventually humans will be over-consumed by plastic. This calls for immediate action to make use of the material that is not biodegradable and cannot be composted. With about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating per every square mile in the world’s oceans, can plastic bottles provide permanent housing for the 1 billion people facing homelessness globally while helping lessen humanity’s plastic problem?

Environmental consultant and founder of Ecotec Environmental Solutions, Andres Froese, sees a future in plastic bottle homes for people in developing nations that aren’t addressing housing crises quickly enough. Froese has so far used 300,000 plastic bottles for 50 home construction projects throughout the world. If this work carries on, we may see a world where plastic bottles solve homelessness.

– Vicki Colbert
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Samoa
A leading cause of homelessness in Samoa is its vulnerability to natural disasters and deadly cyclones. These natural disasters wipe out many families’ homes, businesses and churches, consequently leaving them homeless. The rural communities face the bulk of the homelessness problem due to a lack of access to clean water, land to grow crops and job opportunities. Around 18.8% of Samoa’s population lives below the national poverty line and most of that group lives in rural communities where there is a lack of jobs. Instead, the villagers rely heavily on their land for survival.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Samoa

  1. Homelessness in Samoa is partially due to the fact that many people do not have access to agriculture. This is because natural disasters can cause devastating land destruction. The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $20 million grant to the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project to help aid those in Samoa who suffer in the aftermath of natural disasters. The goal of this initiative is to rehabilitate communities and improve the construction of infrastructure in order to become more stable during natural disasters. Further, this collaboration will also seek to increase food productivity, nutrition and more consistent incomes for the Samoan people.
  2. Samoa is in close contact with countries that have a high income in labor markets, through permanent and temporary migration. Migration offers higher paying job opportunities which raise the amount of income in Samoan households. This, in turn, reduces the chances of homelessness in Samoa.
  3. Violence is prevalent in Samoan families and results in Samoa having one of the highest rates of family and sexual assaults in the world. In 2018, it became the first country in the Pacific Region to perform a National Public Inquiry into family violence — which unveiled that there is an “epidemic” of violence and sexual abuse. According to the report, 90% of respondents indicated some form of violence frequently transpiring at home. Nearly 60% of women experienced sexual abuse from a partner, 20% of women reported being raped and nearly 10% of women experienced incest. The high rate of family and sexual abuse is a determining factor for young girls in Samoa in running away from home — which in turn leads to homelessness.
  4. Many of the people in Samoa rely on agriculture as their main source of income. However, the catastrophe of natural disasters frequently destroys lands, which in turn takes away these Samoans’ means of survival. As of 2019, the unemployment rate in Samoa was 8.36%. The unemployment rate will only rise higher due to natural disasters’ effect on the land and the reduction in manufacturing work. These factors all contribute to the problem of homelessness in Samoa.
  5. One cause of homelessness is mental illness. According to the results from 2017 mental health data, 16.4% of homeless people in Samoa suffer from mental illness. Projects for Assistance in Transition for Homelessness (PATH) is an outreach program accessible in Samoa that offers help in many ways. Examples are diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation and referrals to primary health care providers for those experiencing mental illness.

An NGO Making a Difference

Although Samoa faces adversities such as poverty which leads to homelessness — no reliable statistics show exactly how many people are homeless in Samoa. Luckily, many people tend to have continuous access to the sea for fish and land to grow crops, which is how they can make an income. With the intent of creating a more secure economy and land for the people of Samoa, the nongovernmental organization Civil Society Support Program (CSSP) is currently working to reduce homelessness. The program emerged because of the recognition that through effective and sustainable Civil Society programs, the quality of life for the people of Samoa can improve. The program’s goal is to provide support within Civil Society groups that will improve their communities and provide more promising economic opportunities.

Montana Moore
Photo: Unsplash