Homelessness in Austria
Although Austria has no national plan to combat homelessness, provinces like Vienna, Upper Austria and Vorarlberg strive to make advances when it comes to finding a solution. Increases in homelessness come as a result of rising unemployment and housing costs. In an attempt to mitigate this, some cities take the staircase approach —  a series of steps and services a person, who may deal with mental illness or addiction, must complete in order to live independently.

To properly place a person on the spectrum of homelessness, the government adopted the conceptual categories of “roofless” and “homeless” which the European Federation of Organizations working with the Homeless brought forth. People living on the streets or using emergency shelters classify as “roofless,” while “homeless” is the term for people living in homeless accommodations like hostels, women’s shelters or immigration centers.

Quick Facts

In 2019, the European Social Policy Network released a report discussing the ins and outs of homelessness in Austria. The organization determined that the country saw a 21% increase in people registered as homeless from 2008 to 2017. By 2017, a total of 21,567 people registered, of which 13,926 has the classification of roofless and 8,688 were homeless.

The report also noted that more men than women registered, which may be a result of “hidden female homelessness,” meaning that women are more likely to stay in a friend’s house or precarious housing. At the report’s October 2012 reference date, roughly 7,381 out of the 10,089 homeless and roofless population were men.

Vienna as a Solution

In recent years, Vienna has become a model for fighting homelessness for other cities across the globe including Vancouver and various cities in the United States and Asia. The key to the city’s success comes from its protection of open space, transit-centered development, rent control and a focus on building neighborhoods with mixed ethnic, age and income communities. On top of that, roughly $700 million goes to government-subsidized “social housing,” which shelters 60% of the capital’s population. This results in a combination of non-market and market affordable housing.

One of the plans providing opportunities for those in need in Vienna and other Austrian cities is Housing First. Through the organization, housing is the initial step, unlike the staircase program where participants must address their other problems like mental health, addiction and more before obtaining housing. Housing First’s approach is to replace traditional institutions with flats in the municipality housing sector so that people can build their lives knowing that they have a roof over their heads. Since its launch in 2012, the organization has placed 349 people in homes. As of 2016, housing stability was at 96.6%.

Another initiative called Shades Tours emerged in 2015 and gives the homeless a unique employment opportunity in Vienna and Graz. The company provides tours to the public, but rather than sight-seeing historic buildings, homeless guides show the city through their socio-political perspective giving an insight into one of three categories: poverty and homelessness, refugee and integration or drugs and addiction. Through the tours, it hopes to further educate the public about the challenges the homeless face while also providing guides with an income.

An Advocate for the Future

The Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe, also known as the National Association of Assistance to the Homeless, is a nonprofit that emerged in 1991 to reduce homelessness in Austria. It primarily does so by organizing national responses and a network of facilities through public relations work. Among other projects, it wants to facilitate a nationwide policy that issues subsidies to people at risk for poverty and dealing with high housing costs in an effort to promote its idea of “Living for Everyone.”

Recently the BAWO released statements urging the Austrian government to take proactive measures to reduce the possible increase of homelessness as a result of COVID-19 by freezing evictions and lengthening hours of emergency shelters. As an advocate for this marginalized population, there is a hope for the future. The BAWO’s determination to lower housing costs and create affordable, permanent housing, helps renovate a society that previously made climbing the economic ladder difficult.

With these initiatives and advocates, homelessness in Austria can look to continue its downward trajectory. As more cities and provinces dedicate additional resources towards tackling homelessness and possibly replicating Vienna’s approaches, the country can push toward record lows of registered homelessness and demonstrate a working model to the rest of the world.

Adrianna Tomasello
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in JamaicaWhile Jamaica is known for attracting visitors to its luxurious resorts and reef-lined beaches, not everything on the island is paradise. In fact, its homeless population has gained attention, with over 2,000 people currently residing on the streets. Here are six facts about homelessness in Jamaica.

Six Facts about Homelessness in Jamaica

  1. Jamaica has a relatively high unemployment rate. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, in 2019, the number of unemployed people was 96,700, or approximately 9.52%. Although these numbers are slightly lower than in previous years, unemployment rates are on the rise again. With over 75% of the country’s tourism workers having lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2.4 million more workers are now unemployed.
  2. Hurricane Gilbert has been a significant contributor to homelessness in Jamaica. The category five hurricane occurred in 1998. It severely damaged about 80% of the island’s homes, with winds over 175 miles per hour. More than 200 people were killed and 500,000 left homeless. In a 2012 report, the National Committee on Homelessness stated how the aftermath of the hurricane has contributed to the homelessness entrenched in Jamaica.
  3. Jamaica’s crime rate remains three times higher than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The high youth unemployment rate, which exceeds 25%, correlates to high crime and violence levels. In 2018, Business Insider ranked Jamaica 10th among 20 of the most dangerous places in the world in 2018 due to its high homicide rates and gang prevalence. The International Monetary Fund cited crime as the number one impediment to economic growth, and with a poverty rate of 16.5%, much of the population is unable to secure financial support.
  4. Jamaica’s homeless population is at a high risk of contracting illnesses. Homeless populations, in general, are three to six times more likely than housed populations to become ill or infected with diseases. In Jamaica, one specific threat to homeless populations is HIV. Common practices in homeless populations like sex work and drug use are implicated in contracting HIV, according to a study on “HIV Risk and Gender in Jamaica’s Homeless Population.” With homelessness increasing the risk of contracting HIV, many cannot afford necessary medications due to expensive healthcare costs.
  5. A new homeless shelter is under construction. The government is building the new shelter in Kingston, the country’s capital, costing approximately $120 million. Local Government and Community Development Minister Hon. Desmond McKenzie shares that “this facility will cater to over 300 Jamaicans living on the streets and lacking proper care.” Additionally, St. Thomas and Trelawny drop-in centers will increase accommodation for approximately 1,971 registered homeless people islandwide.
  6. Jamaica’s homeless are receiving aid during the COVID-19 lockdown. During April and May, Jamaica’s homeless were provided with two meals per day to mitigate against reduced resources during the coronavirus pandemic. This particular food program coincided with the constructions of drop-in locations for the homeless across the island. A $150 million allocation is being put forth to make the program possible, with the help of funding from the central government and the ministry’s budget. Organizations such as Food For The Poor and The Salvation Army continue to mobilize to help those in need.

Exacerbated by factors such as unemployment, natural disasters and mental health issues, homelessness in Jamaica is still prevalent. While homelessness remains a major issue, the government and organizations are working to make a positive change. A new facility and food program are aiding people living on the streets, especially during COVID-19.  These six facts emphasize how, while homelessness continues, allocating time and resources has positively impacted people who are homeless in Jamacia.

– Erica Fealtman
Photo: Unsplash

homelessness in barbados
With beautifully clear water, palm trees and blue skies, Barbados is a popular destination for vacationers, with 2.4 million people traveling to the island annually. However, outside of luxury resorts and beaches, about 18% of the native population lives in poverty. Additionally, many experience homelessness in Barbados.

Stigma Regarding Homelessness in Barbados

Vacations and other citizens routinely ostracize homeless Barbadians. Kilvin Cox, a 61-year-old homeless man in Barbados, said, “I have realized society, they can’t do it with me. They don’t show me empathy. I am a living person; I am a quiet man and a lively man; I’m an easygoing man.” Cox says that sometimes when he asks for money at stop signs, doing whatever he can to survive, people yell at him through their car windows because they think he intends to rob them.

Paradoxically, it is often this stigma towards homeless individuals in Barbados that prevents upward mobility. An assessment of the living conditions in Barbados in 2010 reveals that the social ostracization of “vulnerable groups” including homeless people leads to their subsequent exclusion from education, health and other services. This is a vicious cycle that reinforces poverty through the continuation of social and subsequently institutional exclusion.

Causes of Homelessness

The problem of homelessness in Barbados is largely due to the unemployment rate, which reached 10.33% in 2019. Much of Barbados’ homeless population is unemployed, such as 74-year-old Horace Gibson. Gibson receives a pension but notes, “you know how pension goes. You gotta buy food, you gotta buy everything! So, it’s really about how you want to live. I just take it easy, and take it as it comes. I try to survive. I don’t trouble nobody.”

There is no single social or institutional funnel that ushers individuals into homelessness. The Rotary Club of Barbados reported that homelessness in Barbados can come about in a myriad of ways, including drugs and alcohol, mental instability, poor management of finances and lack of familial support.

Solutions

The Barbados government has acknowledged the country’s poverty rate (reported in 2010 at over 19%) which the struggles of people like Cox and Gibson clearly illustrate. In response, Prime Minister Mia Mottley introduced a comprehensive Barbados Economic and Recovery Transformation (BERT) plan in 2018 with the intention of restoring financial sustainability and increasing economic growth. While the program mentions its goal to “protect vulnerable groups through strengthened social safety nets,” it does not specifically define vulnerable groups or mention homelessness in its plan.

Aside from the absence of policies that address homelessness within the BERT plan, the government more broadly does not offer direct support to aid homeless or vagrant populations. Instead, the Welfare Department often refers these individuals to the Barbados Alliance to End Homelessness (BAEH) according to its president Kemar Saffrey. However, despite the government’s apparent reliance on referring those in need to the shelter, it has consistently denied BAEH subvention, submitting proposals annually to no avail.

Although it receives no governmental aid, BAEH is still able to provide programs for the homeless people it serves, including rehabilitation programs, breakfast programs, access to social service agencies, medical services, counseling, educational classes, employment preparation and a shelter specifically for women and children. BAEH’s mission focuses on reintegrating vagrants and homeless people into society through a rehabilitative housing program that enables individuals to enter society in a productive manner. The reported success rate is 78%, but Saffrey warns that the homeless population will continue to increase if the Barbadian government continues to ignore these people, their struggles to survive and the socioeconomic inequalities they represent.

– Kate Ciolkowski-Winters
Photo: Flickr

 

Homelessness in ZambiaZambia is quickly becoming one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most urbanized countries, but homelessness in Zambia is becoming increasingly prevalent. Zambia’s housing stock has a national deficit of 1.3 million units, which is projected to double by 2025. More than 60% of the Zambian population is under the poverty line, living on $2 a day; 40% are considered to be facing extreme poverty, with $1.25 a day. Roughly 70% of people living in urban areas do not have access to proper housing. They live in informal settlements that often have inadequate access to clean water or sanitation.

Urbanization Spurs Zambia’s Housing Crisis

High-income jobs are typically found in urban areas, making the urbanization rate nearly double the population growth rate. Increased urbanization increases the demand for jobs, stagnates wage growth and raises the price of housing. According to a 2010 estimate, when you compare purchasing power, the cost of living in Lusaka is higher than in Washington, D.C. In 1996, Zambia’s National Housing Policy was put into place. This policy recommended that 15% of the country’s budget every year be designated for housing developments. This policy was awarded the 1996 “HABITAT Scroll of Honor” by the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, commending the policy’s focus on involving community participation.

Zambia’s Homeless and Poor People’s Federation was founded to raise awareness and offer possible solutions to Zambia’s housing crisis. It opened a house model during Lusaka’s 83rd Agricultural and Commercial Show. The Federation aimed to demonstrate the power and intelligence that the homeless community can leverage in finding solutions to the problems they face. It wanted to raise awareness around the concept of building incrementally and using low-cost building materials.

Child Homelessness & Solutions

Roughly 1.5 million Zambian children live on the streets, either due to being orphaned or due to extreme poverty. There are roughly 1.4 million orphans under the age of 15 in Zambia, and roughly 750,000 of these children were orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. This has led to a crisis in Zambia, as many street children are being exploited for child prostitution.

What’s being done to address child homelessness? First, approximately 75% of all Zambian households care for at least one orphan. The Zambian Ministry of Sport, Youth, and Child Development partnered with the Ministry of Defense to create youth rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Since the start of these programs in 2006, roughly 1,200 children have completed the rehabilitation program, with mixed results.

Other organizations are working to protect the rights of vulnerable children in Zambia. SOS Children’s Villages, established in 1996, helps provide safe housing for disadvantaged youth in Zambia. It also provides accessible education and medical treatment. To date, over 4,700 Zambian children have received education from SOS Children’s Villages, and over 7,000 have been enrolled in the Family Strengthening Program. Additionally, over 688 Zambian children have been provided with alternative care. Meanwhile, UNICEF works with the Zambian government to improve policies surrounding social services and the protection of Zambia’s orphans.

Land Policies Aim to Address Homelessness in Zambia

Several groups are working to improve housing conditions for Zambia’s homeless population. Habitat for Humanity raises awareness around land rights and focuses on empowering Zambian community members to advocate for the issues important to them. In 2018, 1,965 people volunteered with Habitat to help improve the housing available for people living in Zambia. The Internally Displaced Peoples’ Voice (Zambia) likewise promotes housing rights for vulnerable populations.

The Zambia Land Alliance promotes pro-poor land policy, criticizing past Zambian land rights policies for being too narrow and allowing abuse by public officials. For example, the Zambian Land Acts of 1995 state that “conversion of rights from customary tenure to leasehold tenure shall have effect only after the approval of the chief and the local authorities,” which can become problematic when local officials are not acting in the best interest of the affected communities. The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources has revealed that some public officials have been selling land to foreign investors, specifically commercial farmers, who then push out small, local farmers. There are currently land policies being drafted that emphasize the importance of improving land delivery mechanisms in Zambia.

Conclusion

When thinking about Zambian homelessness, it is important to look at the nation’s history. Many members of the United Nations have emphasized the impact of colonialism in spurring global homelessness, calling for greater support from developed nations. Dennis Chiwele of Zambia suggested that homelessness is often incited by urbanization and a lack of governmental safety nets. Countries like the United States should help nations like Zambia cope with these more complex side effects of urbanization.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in NorwayNordic countries have been historically renowned for their social security and high living standards. They are seen as a safe haven and an aspirational goal among the international community. Norway is no exception, and a prime example of the exceptional Norwegian welfare state is the condition of homelessness. Here is everything you need to know about homelessness in Norway.

How Norway Defines “Homelessness”

The Norwegian government has defined homelessness as an individual or family that is unable to independently maintain a safe, consistent and appropriate housing arrangement. Norway has one of the smallest homeless populations in the world, with only 0.07% of the total population being homeless as of 2016. This proportion is less than half of that found in the United States where 0.17% of the population is homeless.

Causes

While only 0.07% of the Norwegian population is homeless, certain groups are at greater risk than others. Four key causes of homelessness in Norway include insecure housing markets, economic hardship, addiction and mental illness. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 54% of homeless people are reportedly drug dependent, 38% suffer from mental illness and 23% are under the age of 25. Additionally, migration poses a challenge to homelessness in Norway, with 20% of the homeless population being immigrants.

Government Initiatives to Fight Homelessness

Norway’s success in regards to having a low homeless population is not random or coincidental. Instead, it is thanks to targeted, effective and long-term policy initiatives. One of the first major policies announced to combat homelessness in Norway was Project Homeless. Project Homeless was launched from 2001 to 2004 and led a collaborative effort among multiple government departments to develop effective methods for combatting homelessness. After Project Homelessness ended, the Strategy Against Homelessness was announced in 2005 and ran until 2007. This strategy built upon the success of Project Homelessness and aimed to:

  • Reduce eviction petitions by 50% and eviction itself by 30%
  • Prevent individuals recently released from prison or a treatment institution from requiring temporary housing
  • Improve the quality of overnight shelters
  • Limit temporary housing stays to less than three months

Most recently, the Norwegian government launched a strategy in 2014 that in many ways furthers the work of the Strategy Against Homelessness. This new strategy specifically targets families with children and young people up to the age of 25. This is a long-term strategy that will last through 2020 and aims to:

  • Ensure safe rental housing for families with children
  • Limit temporary housing to exceptional circumstances, with these arrangements not exceeding three months
  • Reduce and prevent homelessness among families with children and young people

The 2014 strategy plans to achieve these goals by providing assistance to individuals shifting from temporary to permanent housing, assistance in obtaining a suitable home within an insecure housing market, preventing evictions and social innovation.

Repeated reassessment of needs and continued support has been key to Norway’s success in reducing poverty through effective policy. These methods are not unique to Norway, they can be seen across the globe in countries with similarly low homeless populations. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the insights gained from Norway can be used to inform policies and initiatives against homelessness in countries that are currently struggling.

Lily Jones
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in BelarusBelarus, known as Europe’s last dictatorship, is a former member of the Soviet Union. It is a relatively poor nation, ranking 136th in GDP growth rate and 94th in GDP per capita. The U.N. classifies Belarus as an “economy in transition.” This classification is for countries that have been transitioning from a centrally planned, Soviet-style economy to a market economy since the 1990s. That change has not been easy, as the millennium began with Belarus’ poverty rate hovering at 60%. Despite the nation’s massive reduction in poverty — to less than 1% in 2013 — homelessness in Belarus continues to persist.

Belarus Guarantees the Right to Housing in its Constitution

Ratified in 1973, Belarus’ constitution guarantees housing as a human right: “In the absence of basic shelter and housing for a large group of people, the State is obliged to make every effort and use all available resources to meet the minimum obligations for the realization of the right to housing.” 

The constitution states that homelessness should not exist. The national government must put policies in place to address homelessness in Belarus and to combat the discrimination and persecution homeless individuals face. In reality, however, the housing supply is low, forcing many vulnerable individuals into homelessness. The current government mostly ignores the homeless issue and has not addressed it by increasing the availability of adequate, affordable housing. 

Lack of Data on Homelessness in Belarus

Accurate, up-to-date information and a systematic approach to data collection are vital in addressing homelessness. Belarus does not have a singular standardized method utilized throughout the nation. Each district and city government has their own way of collecting data, which leads to conflicting information.

In 2014, Minsk, the capital, officially registered 65 homeless individuals, but the national government counted 500. In 2013, the ministry of labor and social protection reported approximately 4,000 cases of homelessness throughout the entire country, but five years earlier, the 2009 census counted 587. These varying statistics plant seeds of doubt in future counts.

The real number of homeless people in Belarus could be higher than any previous count. In 2015, Minsk counted 320 homeless individuals. These 320 people were all registered at the city’s shelters, but 1,600 people had recently “inquired” about shelter registration. Without one standardized approach, this statistical unreliability will continue, and the true scope of the problem will remain unknown.

The National Government Takes Little Action

While the constitution states that homelessness in Belarus should not exist, the government takes little action. The lack of reliable statistics on the issue is a prime example of this. The national government relies on temporary shelters, located in a handful of cities, mainly Minsk, to house the homeless. The city governments are responsible for these shelters, complicating matters.

For example, Gomel announced in 2011 that a homeless shelter would be completed in 2016, but this never happened, and no other alternatives have since been proposed. Also, Minsk once had 11 operational temporary shelters. There are now three presently accepting homeless individuals in a city of almost 2 million people.

The actions the national government does take on homelessness include taxing those suffering from it. In 2015, the Belarusian parliament signed Presidential Decree number 3 into law. This bill, also known as the “freeloaders tax,” fines individuals that have been unemployed for six months. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko argued that the legislation disciplines the “work-shy.” Such a bill affects those that are chronically homeless, who have not been working for many years.

Everyday Citizens Are Volunteering to Combat Homelessness in Belarus

Private citizens have decided to take matters into their own hands. Dr. Karina Radchenko has been providing the homeless population of Minsk with free healthcare since 2019. Her work has recently gained international media attention due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Radchenko was spurred into action because many homeless Belarusians do not have proper identification, meaning treatment for diseases such as COVID-19 or AIDS is not free.

The volunteer doctor has tested more than 200 homeless people for HIV. Radchenko’s mission has since grown. Her group, now known as Street Medicine, consists of 20 volunteers. They go to the Minsk city center twice a week, helping any that ask. Neither the Belarusian government nor the Minsk government offers Street Medicine any financial assistance, forcing the group to rely solely on donations.

Conclusion

The present homeless policy in Belarus will result in the problem continuing. The true scope of homelessness in Belarus is unknown. No standardized approach to counting these individuals has been created under Lukashenko’s government. Instead, a tax has been levied against the chronically homeless. This all occurs under a constitution that guarantees adequate housing to all its citizens. Belarusian citizens like Dr. Karina Radchenko are taking matters into their own hands and pushing for the necessary changes — changes that will have to occur if life for Belarus’ most vulnerable citizens is to improve.

– Marcus Lawniczak
 Photo: Flickr

Lesotho is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in southern Africa. Formerly known as Basutoland, the country was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho in 1966, after gaining independence from the U.K. Following a period of political instability and turmoil, Lesotho is now at relative peace, and its level of homelessness is low. Even still, homelessness and housing are issues that Lesotho’s government must address.

Effects of Rapid Urbanization

As in many developing countries, homelessness in Lesotho reflects one downside of urbanization and development. Lesotho went through a period of rapid economic growth in the last two decades. From $775 million in 2002, Lesotho’s GDP rose to $2.739 billion in 2018. Lesotho’s population has increased rapidly, as well, growing to more than 2 million in 2018 compared to 837,270 in 1960. Lesotho’s economic growth seems largely a result of its economic ties with South Africa. However, Lesotho’s poverty rate still stands at 49.7%.

Following Lesotho’s economic development, rapid urbanization has contributed to homelessness. According to the World Bank, the urban population in Lesotho rose from 3.512% in 1960 to 28.153% in 2018. This increase means that urban development in Lesotho has proceeded uncontrolled, overcrowded and unplanned.

Shortage of Infrastructure and Housing

According to UN-Habitat, recording Lesotho’s urbanization rate is a challenge. This is partly because different agencies within Lesotho’s government disagree on what constitutes an urban area. The Department of Lands, Surveys and Physical Planning, which is responsible for town and regional planning, defines an urban area as any area that has legal proclamation. On the other hand, the Bureau of Statistics defines an urban area as any administrative district headquarters or other settlement of rapid growth where people engage in non-agricultural activities. Such inconsistencies seem to contribute to unplanned urban expansion in Lesotho, which leads to insufficient infrastructures for water, sanitation, energy resources, transportation and social amenities.

A shortage of formal housing also contributes to homelessness in Lesotho. The Lesotho Housing and Land Development Corporation (LHLDC), a major state-owned developer, is mainly responsible for supplying homes in Lesotho. While LHLDC delivered an estimated 76% of formal housing in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, U.N.-Habitat notes that LHLDC has not supplied adequate rental housing for low-income residents. In its report on Lesotho’s urban housing, UN-Habitat points out that the housing market in Maseru is saturated with expensive two-bedroom houses. The LHLDC tried to reduce prices by lowering construction standards. However, the organization’s high building costs, along with rising land prices in Maseru, limit LHLDC’s ability to help Lesotho’s homeless.

Help for the Homeless

There are certain organizations working to alleviate homelessness in Lesotho. Habitat for Humanity launched a vulnerable groups housing program in 2001, servicing seven of the country’s ten districts. Primarily, Habitat for Humanity helps build two-room homes to house orphans, the elderly and persons with disabilities. In addition to building homes, the organization educates and trains prospective homeowners on inheritance rights and legal rights, to protect against property grabbing. Meanwhile, AVANI Lesotho Group, a hotel in Maseru, commemorated World Homeless Day in 2016 by providing food for homeless children.

Homelessness in Lesotho is defined by unplanned rapid urbanization and a lack of affordable housing for low-income residents. By addressing the country’s homelessness problem, organizations like Habitat for Humanity and AVANI Lesotho Group are creating hope for a better future for the citizens of Lesotho.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

volunteerism in IndiaAs the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 continues globally and conditions remain unclear for many people throughout India, what started out as a 21-day lockdown has since been extended for high infection areas until June 30th. The country has slowly started re-opening a variety of businesses and organizations by the Ministry of Health Affairs despite a spike of 68,566 reported cases from May 25 to June 3. The vulnerability of poor and homeless people throughout India poses an additional threat to the already fragile hunger crisis underway. Luckily, volunteerism in India is saving lives.

Migrant Workers and Homelessness

There are currently more than 1.7 million homeless people living in India. During a nation-wide lockdown, this is extremely problematic with lacking resources and little capacity at homeless shelters. Previous to the lockdown, an estimated 250 million Indian people were living underfed or malnourished. According to statistics gathered over the course of the last three months, these numbers have increased by 22.2 million. Many migrant workers trying to return home were forced to isolate in conditions that put their health and livelihood at risk. In many of these places, following social distancing guidelines is extremely difficult if not impossible.

Homeless shelters in India are working to get as many people off of the street as possible; however, this comes at a price. When the country went under strict order and work was quickly put to a halt, migrant workers had no choice but to begin their journey home. Many shelters houses more than 10,000 migrant workers and homeless people. This results in limited masks and sanitizers becomes an added issue on top of limited food and space. For nothing more than “a ladle of poorly cooked food poured roughly into a plate or plastic envelope”, masses of people would stand in line for hours, uncertain of when their next meal may come.

How Volunteerism in India is Saving Lives

Once lockdown restrictions began to lift, the community of India wasted no time giving back to those most vulnerable. The reliance on government programs during crisis can be taxing, specifically when there is not near enough meals to cover the amount of people in need. Many charities and organizations saw this need and teamed up with locals to shine a light on the issue. Together, they urged the government to provide aid as soon as possible. Here are a few stories of how volunteerism in India is saving lives.

Project Mumbai

Khaana Chahiye, created by Project Mumbai, in an initiative that continues to work tirelessly to provide meals for thousands of migrant workers and displaced people during the lockdown and pandemic. The initiative does not discriminate against who receives the meals; however, the focal point of this initiative is to feed as many homeless and migrant workers as possible. During this time, the organization averages an output of 70,000 meals per day to the poor. Luckily, the consistency of this output has sustained the lives of thousands. The organization also offers ways for civilians to bring attention to areas in need not being reached.

How An Individual Has Made a Difference

Local Tagore Government Arts and Science College Principal Sasi Kanta Dash, PhD, has always dreamt of helping his community. Dr. Dash knew that the lockdown could go on for a number of months and saw the need for positive change. At the beginning of the lockdown, he gathered a group of volunteers and started by feeding 250 people on the very first day, and the “immense satisfaction at the end of the first day catalyzed the actions on the future”. Over the course of 40 days, Dr. Dash has served more than 10,000 meals to the elderly, sick and poor across India.

The reality for thousands of people in India means limited access to preventative measures for the coronavirus, extreme food scarcity and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. Although this can be daunting, with the help of local heroes like Dr. Dash and Project Mumbai, the goal of sustenance for all becomes that much closer.

– Katie Mote-Preuss 
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in fijiFiji may be best known for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts, but it remains a developing country that deals with poverty. In fact, 31% of its population lives below the poverty line and struggles on a weekly basis to meet their needs. This article will look into homelessness in Fiji, some of its causes and why this is such a prevalent issue today.

Five Facts About Homelessness in Fiji

  1. Poverty in Fiji’s capital: Suva, Fiji’s capital, is home to many of the nation’s homeless citizens. This includes individuals as young as primary school children. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, says those who are homeless are not necessarily in this situation because of medical issues or lack of alternatives. She states that while some people are homeless due to mental illness, others simply moved away from their families for one reason or another. She also shares that this homelessness can be generational.
  2. High poverty rate: Approximately half a million people residing in Fiji are living in poverty. This plays a big role in the homeless population in regards to a lack of housing along with “unemployment, urban migration, non-renewal of government leases for land, overpopulation of farming areas and the breakdown of traditional village life and culture.” For Fiji to reduce this problem, the country would have to start by building a minimum of 4,200 homes per year. This would significantly help with housing standards but, as a developing country, this is a difficult task.
  3. Natural disasters: Another factor that is to blame for homelessness in Fiji is its natural disasters. Recently, Cyclone Harold devastated the islands of Fiji, as well as other islands such as the Solomon Islands. This category four storm took place from April 1st through the 11th. While the total number of homes that have been affected remains unknown, at least 46 homes just in the Bouwaqa Village on Vatulele in Fiji have been damaged and 14 have been completely destroyed, leaving dozens of people without a home to go back to.
  4. Violence against women: Violence against women and girls has caused an increase in homelessness. It was estimated that 84% of young women who fall into these categories experience intimate partner violence and 66% of them have succumbed to homelessness due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  5. Efforts to help: Since the coronavirus pandemic, Fiji has been in lockdown like the rest of the world. One family, however, has taken it upon themselves to continue their mission to feed the homeless. A 12-year-old boy named Junior, his parents and a small team of individuals call themselves “MISSION-1.” Even before lockdown, MISSION-1 would come to the streets of Suva every Sunday and provide food and hot beverages to the homeless. Despite lockdown and the risk of arrest, this team has continued to provide for those who are often forgotten. Australia has also stepped up since Cyclone Harold devastated the Fiji Islands and has sent tents, kitchen supplies, hygiene items, containers for water as well as shelter kits. This is Australia’s way of giving back and thanking Fiji for their support during the Australian bushfires.

With continued help, there is always hope that Fiji’s homelessness rate will begin to decline.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Costa Rica
Located in Central America and bordering the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica is home to approximately 4.5 million people. Flourishing on global exports and the travel industry, many know Costa Rica for its exceptional exports in fruits, vegetables and coffee.

However, as a developing country, Costa Rica struggles from problems with sanitation, poverty and homelessness. More than 1 million Costa Ricans live in severe poverty, and approximately 52% of the population suffers from insufficient and unstable living conditions. Within the last few decades, citizens have emphasized the need to reduce overall homelessness, focusing on urban areas. Here are a few unique ways Costa Rican citizens are attempting to reduce overall homelessness.

Aiding the Homeless

The Chepe se baña project in Costa Rica aims to provide a better life for the homeless. Originating from the Promundo Foundation, Chepe se baña hopes to help around 200 homeless people near San José, the capital of Costa Rica. The name of the project references a large bus that consists of four showers and a ramp for people with disabilities. The bus provides efficient and free sanitation toward people living in poverty. Running on generous donations and private enterprises, Chepe se baña provides much help to the homeless in San José.

Costa Rican communities took matters into their own hands in 2015 when social groups Friends of the World and Vaso Lleno worked to provide relief for the homeless. More than 200 volunteers traveled to urban areas, ranging from Parque España to San José, offering daily necessities such as food, water and clothes. These volunteers were able to offer over 1,500 beverages, more than 18,000 kg of beans and hundreds of items of clothing for men, women and children. Volunteers would pack lunches with sandwiches and drinks, and deliver them to people in need.

While Chepe se bana and hundreds of volunteers may not end homelessness in Costa Rica, the support has certainly provided necessary relief for people who are in difficult living situations. It is important to understand that the acts of citizens do in fact create a noticeable difference when attempting to reduce global poverty.

Friends of Costa Rica

Outside of Costa Rica, an American organization called Amigos of Costa Rica is a nonprofit organization that uses funds to directly address poverty — specifically homelessness — in Costa Rica. Through donations and helpful resources, Amigos of Costa Rica has committed itself to aiding Costa Rica in achieving sustainable development.

The organization works alongside nonprofit organizations within Costa Rica, directing funds to Costa Rican nonprofit organizations every two weeks. Funds go towards reducing homelessness, providing better sanitation and distributing food and support to those in need.

Thanks to these and other initiatives, Costa Rica now has the lowest poverty rate in Central America. While Costa Rica continues to struggle to reduce overall homelessness and poverty, efforts to diminish or decrease poverty rates are now showing positive results. With increased efforts to support the homeless population in Costa Rica, overall poverty will likely continue to decrease. 

Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Unsplash