Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the southernmost island in the Caribbean. The country has a population of approximately 1.39 million people, with 20% of those people living below the poverty line. As a result, homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago is a common reality for many citizens. Homelessness does not only impact those who experience it directly, but it also harms the surrounding community and the overall Trinidadian economy.

The Effects of Homelessness and Poverty

According to Newsday, there are approximately 414 homeless people living on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago. Behavioral health disorders, rising numbers of victims of assault and acute and chronic physical conditions are just some of the effects of homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago. Crimes against the homeless has risen drastically in the country. There has been a total of 1,437 assault cases against homeless individuals alone. With an unemployment rate of 4.9%, and rising drastically, conditions are made worse as more citizens fall below the poverty line and into homelessness. 

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted economies worldwide, and Trinidad and Tobago is no exception. The pandemic has increased the number of vulnerable individuals and the percentage of people living in homelessness in the country. As a tourism-dependent country, the pandemic caused the closure of most touristic attractions, thus decreasing the amount of money going into Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, many people were laid off and fell below the minimum wage line.

The Good News

Despite the increasing numbers of people on the streets, many organizations have come together to help the homeless in Trinidad and Tobago. With the help of The Social Development Ministry, the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has worked rigorously to build temporary housing for the homeless. The facility aforementioned began construction in April of 2020 and provides homeless individuals with roofs over their heads, cots to sleep on, clean bathrooms and meals three times a day. To ensure the safety and health of those staying there, social distancing has been enforced and The Public Health Department has conducted inspections.

By raising funds to provide housing for those less fortunate, Habitat for Humanity has also made a positive impact in the country. The organization builds safe and clean habitats for those in need in Trinidad and Tobago. The non-profit began building in 1997 and has served more than 700 people since.

Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago affects many people, especially during a time when homeless rates are rising drastically as more people lose their jobs. Assistance provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has helped decrease the number of people living on the street. As more shelters open, more homeless individuals begin receiving the help they need.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr 

Homelessness in NicaraguaNicaragua, a Central American nation between the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea, has a population of more than 6 million. Unfortunately, homelessness is a current struggle in the country. The homeless are known as some of the most marginalized groups in Nicaragua, and the population of homelessness is only increasing. Currently, around “30% of the population lives on about$2 per day.” As Nicaragua lacks the key characteristics of a well-developed country, a correlative relationship between development and homelessness. Here are four facts about homelessness in Nicaragua.

4 Facts about Homelessness in Nicaragua

  1. A strong factor in homelessness is mental illness. Compared to the general population, the homeless population has a more difficult time seeking help and beneficial resources because of the prevalence of mental illness. Recent studies state that reports of mental illnesses are increasing. The main cause is a combination of economic problems and the difficulty of social interactions, especially with family members.
  2. With such a high percentage of people living in poverty, there are very limited opportunities for education and development. Families often operate farms for healthy crops, but they struggle to make a comfortable living. For some who don’t make a successful living growing crops, it may lead to homelessness. The Opportunity International Program has helped improve Nicaragua’s agriculture with “loans and technical assistance” with higher-quality crops. Crop growth has increased by 30%. The organization also fights homelessness in Nicaragua by giving the children of struggling families opportunities to receive an education. Opportunity International has partnered with more than 20 leaders to help downsize the number of homeless Nicaraguans struggling to make good livelihoods.
  3. Natural disasters in Nicaragua are major contributors to homelessness. Since the 2007 Hurricane Felix, as well as the prior and subsequent weeks of heavy rain, rural parts of Nicaragua are still struggling to recover. This has left a total of 436,000 homeless. The storm also destroyed large amounts of agricultural land and forests, further devastating the livelihoods of those with farms. International responses have been actively sending aid to the least developed areas of the country as well as where homelessness is most prevalent.
  4. Social organizations and students have volunteered for years to aid poor, homeless communities in Nicaragua. Habitat For Humanity has been working in poor rural areas since 1984. It continues to mobilize volunteers to take action in Nicaragua’s homeless communities by building small homes. It has helped supply 91,900 people in need throughout the country. To ameliorate the homeless problem, the organization estimates that Nicaragua still needs an additional 957,000 in housing improvements and new home construction projects. Habitat For Humanity continues to mobilize students to take action in Nicaragua’s homelessness starting by helping build small homes.

These points mark four facts about homelessness in Nicaragua. There is a strong need for economic improvements in order to reduce the homeless population. The first step is creating more homes for families to stay in and improving the current homes with more available resources. Furthermore, improvements in crop production can help families in agriculture earn a sustainable living.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

Homeless Children in UgandaThe population of children in Uganda is one of the largest in the world. Out of 37 million people, 56% of Ugandans are under 18 and more than 52% are under 15. Unfortunately, a recent report by the Human Rights Watch revealed that the majority of the children in Uganda lack human rights. Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Watch, find Ugandan children are facing homelessness and violence.

As of 2019, there were an estimated 15,000 orphaned and homeless children aged between 7 and 17 in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Homelessness in Uganda is largely caused by the conflict in northern Uganda from 1987 to 2006. Other factors, such as domestic abuse and neglect are also responsible for the high numbers of homeless children in Uganda.

Mistreatment

Some Ugandans help the street children; they provide places to sleep and take care of the sick. Unfortunately, others harm homeless children because of the widespread belief that all street children are thieves. Homeless children are commonly verbally abused, kicked, slapped and spat on; however, the violence does not end there.

Interviews with street children reveal that the police are highly abusive. The police beat the children who resist arrest and extortion attempts. Tear gassing, threatening, beating with batons are just a few examples of the violent behaviors of the police.

Interviews

In December of 2013, Human Rights Watch conducted interviews of homeless and previously homeless children in Uganda.

“[The policemen] take money from us. If you do not have money they beat you so much…. Last week on Saturday, the police came in the night and beat me when I was sleeping with three other children. The policeman beat me on the thighs with a rubber whip. He then hit my knees with a baton. He beat me until I gave him 1,000 shillings ($0.40) and left me.”

—Roger P., 13-year-old, living two years on the streets in Lira

“Government should look for a better solution for street children instead of beating and arresting us. The more you beat us the more we get hardened with life and it does not solve the problem. They want us to go back home but some of us do not even have homes. Others do not know where our parents are. So when they beat us to go home, where do you want us to go?”

— Sam L., 15-year-old, lived four years on the streets in Masaka

Progress

Fortunately, there have been many efforts to decrease homelessness in Uganda. This includes a national program that targets orphans and vulnerable children. Motivated individuals and non-governmental groups are also working to end homelessness in Uganda. For example, Child Restoration Outreach (C.R.O.) focuses on bringing street children into families and helping them become self-reliant citizens. C.R.O. provides children food, medical care, clothes, education and counseling. Additionally, C.R.O. works to reconnect homeless children with their family members. In 2019, C.R.O. sponsored 28 students’ schooling and bought ten children laptops.

Street Resource is another organization dedicated to helping homeless Ugandans. Street Resource has been providing shelter for homeless Ugandans since 2017. Merry Ntungyire, the founder of Street Resource, used her own savings to recruit members to the organization. Today, Street Resource provides shelter for 17 people. 17 isn’t a big number, and the shelter only provides a small room with basic amenities; however, the work of Ntungyire and others like her is highly valued by many. Hopefully, more groups like Street Resource and the Child Restoration Outreach will join the fight against homelessness in Uganda.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Homelessnesss in Romania
Research determines that there are 14,000 homeless people in Romania. Bucharest, the capital of Romania, has around 5,000. However, the country’s residents lack awareness of the very large and still growing homeless population that surrounds them. Eradicating social exclusion could help contribute to a reduction of homelessness in Romania.

Street Children

Romania has an estimated 1,000 children living on the streets. This high number is a result of the country’s economic inability to afford adequate housing for these children. In fact, one might find a 7-year-old child finding shelter in underground tunnels of the city or public places, hiding from danger and trying to stay warm. Social workers are working together in an effort to become involved in every community. Their ultimate goal is to use their knowledge, skills and resources to help children register as citizens so they can obtain access to education and healthcare.

Protecting children through adoption processes is critical in order to prevent intervention from birth parents who may later come back for the children they had abandoned with ulterior motives. In response, the Hague Convention emerged to prevent child trafficking and is becoming a widespread private law treaty to protect homeless children from exposure to trafficking.

Living Conditions

Communities in Romania reject considering the homeless equal human beings. To that extent, the conditions of the homeless involve living in sewer canals and spending their days gathering around semi-public spaces begging.

Strategies for Improvement

The European Social Policy Network (ESPN) supports the European Commission in monitoring social policy issues in the E.U., its neighboring countries and developing countries. It provides an overview of policies addressing key challenges in areas of social inclusion and protection. The 2019 ESPN Thematic Report on National Strategies to fight Homelessness and Housing Exclusion focuses on homelessness in Romania and recognizes the need for more resources. These resources and services include:

  • Assistance and Social reintegration.

  • Residential centers for homeless, at-risk people such as victims of domestic violence and young people in difficult situations.

  • Day shelters and night shelters to provide psychological support.

The World Bank works to develop projects that take into consideration Romania’s need for equality in education, employment and access to public services. All of these three services all target aiding the homeless population. Currently, the World Bank has created a partnership strategy with Romania that includes building a 21st-century government, supporting growth and job creation and supporting greater social inclusion.

Recently, the Romanian government passed an anti-poverty package that consists of 47 measures to combat poverty. This package includes increasing the employment rate, reducing the early school drop-out rate and scaling-up national health programs.

The World Bank has plans to help the homeless in Romania using anti-poverty legislative measures that are up for debate in the Romanian Parliament. The new policies aim to consolidate existing programs such as the Heating Benefit, Family Benefit and Guaranteed Minimum Income, all of which are costly and do not always go to the people who need them most.

Social Exclusion

The fall of communism in 1989 left many Romanian families in unsafe houses. In recent years, there has been a controversy over the reason for these evictions. Many of the evictions pushed families out with little warning and left them homeless or relocated to unsafe and undesirable locations near main garbage dumps or old chemical factories.

Social Inclusion

Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that neuropsychiatric disorders contribute to 19.9% of the global burden of disease. Around 1% of the Romania population suffers from mental disorders. Out of the 166,594 people who suffer from mental disorders, 28,895 are children. Changing the way people perceive homelessness in Romania could also change how the homeless view themselves.

The lack of nutrition and stability in the lives of the homeless only worsens how they see themselves psychologically. Their negative view of self makes it impossible for them to believe in a positive change for the future. The higher the value people regard homeless individuals with, the better chance the entire community will come together to not only provide housing and shelter but also to equip the homeless with the ability to envision a better future for themselves.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

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

 

trevi fountain fights povertyIn 2017, the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) reported the highest levels of poverty in Italy in the past 12 years with 8.4% of the population living in “absolute poverty.” Absolute poverty is the state in which individuals are not able to purchase necessary goods and services resulting in detrimental social exclusion. Although slightly lower than the national poverty rate, Italy’s capital Rome reported that 6.4% of its population lived in “absolute poverty” in 2017. Additionally, there were 7,709 people were homeless in Rome in 2014. The Italian government is working on ways to improve the significant issues of poverty and homelessness in the country’s capital. However, one man and one fountain have made a huge impact on improving impoverished conditions in Rome over the past decade. Today, the Trevi Fountain fights poverty through the coins thrown into it.

The Trevi Fountain

The Eternal City is home to countless ancient and renowned monuments including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and, of course, the Trevi Fountain. Apart from being one of the most famous baroque fountains in the world, the Trevi Fountain is also known for its coin tradition. Visitors throw three coins over their shoulders into the fountain’s vast pool of water. The first coin promises that the owner of the coin will one day return to Rome. The second coin promises that love shall soon be discovered. The third coin promises that the owner of the coin will marry the love they found. Due to this tradition, approximately €3,000 a day are thrown into the Trevi Fountain totaling €1.5 million annually.

In 2002, the Trevi Fountain became famous for a reason other than its ancient history and romantic traditions. Its new fame arose because of a man named Roberto Cercelletta. Cercelletta was homeless and used the Trevi Fountain’s coin tradition to alleviate his poverty. Every night, Roberto would wade into the fountain’s pool and collect the coins, all while evading detection from the police. Roberto could collect almost €1,000 in about 15 minutes of scavenging. He got away with his escapade for 34 years before his arrest by the police in 2002.

Roberto Cercelletta’s Impact on Poverty in Rome

The story of Roberto inspired the Italian government to donate the Trevi Fountain’s coin collection to helping Rome’s homeless and disenfranchised population. Today, the coins from the Trevi Fountain are removed three times a week by a company known as Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente (ACEA). ACEA typically collects €8,000 from the fountain per visit. The ACEA then gives the coins to the police to weigh and deposit. After depositing the coins, the Italian government donates the money (which is usually $1.7 million per year) to a local charity called Caritas Roma that is dedicated to providing support to the poor and homeless in Rome.

5 Facts About Caritas Roma

  1. Caritas Internationalis – Caritas Roma is a local branch of the much larger Caritas Internationalis organization. Caritas Internationalis was founded in 1897 and it consists of 165 Catholic service groups that work to promote justice and end poverty. Caritas Internationalis emphasizes the Catholic Church’s social mission of acting on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable populations. The organization operates in over 200 countries and serves millions of impoverished individuals.
  2. Caritas Roma – Caritas Roma emphasizes the power of service and volunteering. The main purpose of the nonprofit is to encourage Christians around the world to view charity as the focus of their life. Therefore, Caritas Roma coordinates volunteers and services in the social-welfare sector to provide resources and support for the impoverished populations in Rome.
  3. Other organizations – Caritas Roma works with 45 other organizations to improve living conditions in Rome. Caritas Roma has partnered with services such as health facilities, family centers, housing communities and reception centers to provide holistic support for poor and homeless individuals. These facilities also provide opportunities for Christians to volunteer and stand in solidarity with the city’s poor.
  4. Methodology – Caritas Roma carefully researches the needs of the poor and homeless in Rome. Caritas Roma observes the demographics and locations of the poor and homeless populations in Rome and generates an annual report. These reports are used to describe the social exclusion affecting these populations in order to determine the best methods for providing help.
  5. Counseling services – Caritas Roma coordinates with Carita Counseling Centers throughout Italy. Carita Counseling Centers cover over 80% of Italy’s territory, providing widespread help in all of Italy’s many regions. These counseling centers have provided support for 205,090 people, including over 26,000 homeless people.

Although Roberto Cercelletta was a thief of some notoriety, he inspired monumental change in policies that never truly recognized the plight of homelessness. Now, the Trevi Fountain fights poverty through every coin thrown into it. This story reflects how a simple diversion of funds from a long-standing tradition can make a lasting and positive impact on poverty.

– Ashley Bond
Photo: PublicDomainPictures

 

homelessness in the virgin islandsIn many vacation hotspots, it’s easy to overlook the undeniable poverty, and this includes locations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2018, approximately 500 individuals were homeless. This may seem like a small number, but the population of the Virgin Islands is minimal, only 100,000 people. It’s time to shed some light on the struggles of the people who are easily overlooked by the beautiful beaches of the Virgin Islands. Here are five facts about homelessness in the Virgin Islands.

5 Facts About Homelessness in the Virgin Islands

  1. Homelessness in Families: Homelessness in the Virgin Islands is seen in families, which directly affects children and their growth. To help low-income families, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, was created. However, it has faced a $3 million reduction causing 26 families to lose housing and government help. Moreover, “for every $1 million dollars cut from the program … 111 families could lose housing.”
  2. Homelessness in Children: Those who are 0-17 years old are in the age range leading homelessness in the Virgin Islands. These children are considered “youths without parents or unaccompanied youths” and these numbers are growing.
  3. Demographics: There are certain groups that are being directly affected by this homelessness, as shown above by the large number of homeless children. Other groups include Black citizens and men. Black citizens made up 90% of the homeless population in 2017. The majority of the homeless population, 96%, is comprised of men. Another group being directly targeted is those who struggle with mental illness or drug dependence.
  4. Economics: The Virgin Islands heavily rely on tourism to boost the economy and to help the average person’s income. Therefore, during off-seasons for travel, most have to pick up other jobs to stay afloat to prevent money from becoming tight. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, travel has been limited, creating more financially unstable families and individuals. The off-season for travel and COVID-19 greatly affects homelessness and the financial standing of persons in the Virgin Islands.
  5. Lack of Action: Most records of homelessness in the Virgin Islands were taken in 2017 or 2018. The most recent record of homelessness was taken in early 2020, showing that the issue has not gone away. In 2020, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. proposed major reforms to the mental health treatment systems in the Virgin Islands. However, the bill has yet to be passed due to a lack of attention in Congress.

Governor Bryan has submitted legislation in order to put an end to the chronic homelessness faced by the citizens of these islands, however, is has been greatly overlooked by Congress. To help the issue of homelessness in the Virgin Islands, constituents should email or call their representatives and senators.

A non-governmental organization that has worked to help the issue of homelessness among youth is the Jermain Defoe Foundation created by English football player Jermain Defoe. It strives to help youth who are poor or are suffering from illness or abuse. This organization was founded because of the lack of attention that was brought to the issues of homelessness and poverty faced by children. It has provided funding and support for the Holy Family Children’s Home, raised funds to build the Rainbow Children’s Home and opened a football academy — all in the Virgin Islands.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in vietnamWhile the nation of Vietnam has long struggled with poverty, homelessness in Vietnam has been successfully reduced by the government during a period of five years ranging from 2003 to 2008. These efforts have reduced the number of street children by 62%. This accomplishment is partly due to the fact that Vietnam has been aggressively fighting poverty for years. Every year since 2012, the percentage of people who live in poverty has lowered by a range of 4.6% to 6.9%. This effectively cut the percentage of people living in extreme poverty since 2012 in half. This is due largely to the fact that Vietnam has been experiencing massive economic growth in the last decade. In addition, it has been shifting to a market-based economy with a socialistic orientation.

Millions Have Been Lifted Out of Poverty

The country has experienced significant improvement with regards to government openness and transparency, as well as education and human development. Inward investments and focusing on increasing exports have been one of the drivers of this prosperity as well as a focus on reducing poverty in the country. Overall, 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty since 1992. According to a report by the IMF, the government has been investing in housing, education and infrastructure for its vulnerable population, especially ethnic minorities and those who live in remote areas. All of this has contributed to the small percentages of homelessness in Vietnam.

There Are Still Some Challenges

While the numbers are improving for Vietnamese-born homeless children, the population of migrant children is on the rise. It is estimated, in 2006, that the number of these children was around 23,000. Migrant children, according to some reports, are coming from rural areas in Vietnam. They represent a new social phenomenon in Vietnamese society. Many of these children are homeless and their parents use them to generate income. Many of them don’t have identification or any personal papers and are very vulnerable to labor exploitation by those who employ them. Those children cannot attend university or go to the hospital. Sadly, homelessness in Vietnam often exposes them to other risks such as sexual abuse and even certain diseases.

Thankfully, there are those who are working on solutions to tackle homelessness in Vietnam. They are specifically tackling the problem of street children. Do Duy Vi, the Chief Outreach Officer of Blue Dragon Children Foundation, himself used to be a child of the streets. Today he works as a social worker trying to get children off the streets by guiding them to walk the same path he did. He offers them a similar opportunity that he was offered. He helps street children become outreach workers for the Australian funded foundation. During the period of July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018, the foundation rescued 116 children off the streets and connected 62 of them with their families. It also represented 52 children in child protection cases and provided 107 human trafficking survivors with emergency accommodations. Part of the organization’s job also includes working with government authorities. As such, they helped the 694 government officials become more skilled in countering violations of child rights and trafficking. These are just some of the signs of hope for the destitute in this country.

More Needs To Be Done

It has been reported that 400 organizations and NGOs are helping 15,000 children living in extremely difficult situations. More needs to be done in terms of spreading awareness about the problem and explaining child protection laws that protect youngsters in Vietnam from being exploited for profit.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a country roughly three times the size of Texas, rich in fertile land, minerals, precious metals and potential for green energy initiatives. Despite this, approximately 72% of Congolese people live in extreme poverty. Located in central Africa, the DRC has experienced decades of dictatorship and civil war after gaining its independence.

The DRC enjoyed a brief respite from tension when its civil war ended in 2003, and in 2019, the nation saw its first peaceful transfer of power since independence. Though these developments are promising, many of the nearly 90 million people who call DRC home do not consistently have a home. Here are some facts about homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are worth knowing.

Understanding Homelessness and Displacement

Homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is better understood in terms of displacement. While displaced people may actually have had resources to build a home, they have been forced to move repeatedly, usually suddenly, because of violence or disaster. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre estimates that more than five million people are currently internally displaced in the DRC, making up one-tenth of the entire world’s internally displaced people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is second only to Syria in terms of the magnitude of its displacement crisis.

Several factors overlap to contribute to homelessness in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Violence by armed groups, ethnic conflicts, natural disasters, joblessness and scarcity of accessible resources all play a significant role in displacement. Any of the more than 120 armed groups operating in the region may clash with one another or the military because of political tensions or illegal mining operations. On the other hand, natural disasters like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, fires, floods and landslides may combine with these conflicts to cause homelessness.

A significant number of the DRC’s homeless people are refugees from other countries. While Congolese people often leave the DRC for other countries, about half a million displaced people in the DRC are actually foreign refugees themselves. They come mainly from Burundi, Rwanda and the Central African Republic. Many of these refugees have fled disaster, violence or instability in their own home countries. Because of this, patterns of displacement are complex, ever-changing and challenging to track.

Homelessness Among Children

Families are especially impacted by these incessant conflicts, and the instability takes a toll on children. Farming families miss planting and harvesting times due to drought or forced flight from their homes. Other displaced people may be exploited for prostitution or child labor. Similarly, some children whose parents die live unattended in the streets. In the capital of Kinshasa alone, there are about 30,000 “street children” who are at risk for assault and exploitation every day.

To combat these obstacles, between 2015 and 2017, the Danish Refugee Council helped 26,000 school-aged Congolese children return to school and trained over 1,000 teachers and volunteers. The organization has also partnered with UNICEF, UNHCR and other NGOs to provide basic necessities to households, as well as counseling services to children who have experienced trauma.

Organizations Making a Difference

Aid organizations, nongovernmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations do not always have adequate funding and capacity to protect people from homelessness. Without assistance, homeless people may stay with relatives or a host family; those without that option may resort to living in settlements made up of makeshift structures. Others find shelter in more secure displacement camps, such as UNHCR’s South Ubangi Mole refugee camp in northwestern DRC, which has 15,000 inhabitants.

However, none of these situations is totally secure; armed individuals occasionally pass security checkpoints to assault inhabitants of displacement camps. Limited funding, close living conditions and insufficient sanitation do not allow residents of camps to protect themselves. This makes it easier for communicable illnesses like cholera, Ebola and COVID-19 to spread.

Humanitarian aid organizations and data-gathering agencies, along with local volunteers, lead the charge in helping track and mitigate homelessness and its effects. It is no small task to accurately measure the extent of displacement. The DRC’s massive size, porous borders and challenging geography all add to the challenge of this job.

Although the Congolese government does not have its own mechanism for tracking internal displacement, outside organizations present in the DRC have developed tools to assist. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre uses the latest technology to compile information from organizations and locals to provide an accurate picture of displacement in the region. Its tools bring together research, real-time reports and satellite imaging to assess where the greatest needs currently are. Some other organizations also assisting displaced people in the DRC are USAID and Amnesty International.

Hope for the Homeless

Though the DRC may still have miles to go, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee recently introduced H. Res 531 and H.R. 1191, a simple resolution and bill, respectively, which are aimed at protecting Congolese children. These measures, along with other existing laws, could help create more accountability for foreign entities who allow exploitation and violence that contribute to displacement and homelessness.

At a recent security council meeting, Leila Zerrougui, Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) commended President Tshikesedi’s “reform agenda and improved relations with neighboring countries” as evidence of improvement in the DRC. President Tshikesedi himself seemed optimistic during these talks; he reiterated the gains he has made in securing the country since his election in 2019 and renewing his commitment to securing a brighter future for his people.

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr