Homelessness in Sao Paulo
Under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has experienced devastating economic and human loss in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From his initial downplaying of the seriousness of the novel coronavirus and spreading of misinformation about treatments, Bolsonaro has now taken on an apathetic role in the crisis. His attitude persists in the midst of the country’s highest daily death toll counts and hospitalization rates. The failure of Bolsonaro’s government to lead the charge in Brazil’s COVID-19 response has created an urgent need for communities to step in. Community action is necessary to help deal with the growing homelessness in São Paulo and other major cities. Furthermore, many in Brazil’s middle class are at risk of falling into poverty due to COVID-19’s long-term effects on the economy. This includes layoffs, a lack of jobs and a lack of financial support from the government.

Rise in Homelessness

São Paulo, the largest city in Latin America, was already struggling with high rates of homelessness prior to COVID-19. In the four years leading up to the pandemic, São Paulo’s homeless population increased by 65%, totaling an estimated 24,000 people. Aid workers believe the true number is likely much higher. Many of the newly homeless during the pandemic were already living day-to-day in crowded favelas, while some previously had employment in middle-class jobs, such as teachers.

The protracted issue of homelessness in São Paulo has created much frustration. Violence has occurred as police have recently attempted to disperse large homeless settlements notorious for open-air drug use in central neighborhoods of the city. Wealthy citizens increasingly isolate themselves from issues of poverty in São Paulo. Meanwhile, the middle classes face increasing economic instability and coexisting with a growing homeless population.

Community Approaches

Community action has been a lifeline for São Paulo’s homeless population before and during the pandemic. Two common approaches local NGOs and community leaders are advocating for are Universal Basic Income (UBI) and housing. A law guaranteeing UBI in Brazil underwent signature during the presidency of Lula da Silva several years ago, but to date, the country has not put it into action.

The Gaspar Garcia Center of Human Rights

The Gaspar Garcia Center of Human Rights advocates for the right to decent housing in São Paulo. The center provides legal guidance for citizens in precarious living situations. It also has programs for job training to work in the formal sector. One program the center has created is a recycling collective, which has employed 150 formerly-homeless Brazilians. The center also raises awareness for the rights of informal workers and provides legal guidance.

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church has had a long-standing presence in the homeless communities of São Paulo. Father Júlio Lancellotti of the São Miguel Arcanjo parish has garnered media attention during the pandemic for distributing meals and hygiene products to over 400 homeless citizens on a daily basis. For his activism, he has been subject to death threats and harassment by some. This highlights the complexities of public opinion towards the homeless in São Paulo.

The Homeless Workers Movement

On the political side, an up-and-coming Socialist politician named Guilherme Boulos recently ran for mayor of São Paulo. Although he lost, expectations have determined that he will be a leftist challenger in wider Brazilian politics in the near future. Boulos is a leader of the Homeless Workers Movement, a group that demands housing for the city’s homeless population. The group takes over abandoned buildings in the city center. By doing so, it demonstrates its potential use for public housing in acts of civil disobedience. Boulos has support from the controversial but still widely popular former Brazilian President Lula da Silva.

Conclusion

Homelessness was already an important issue in São Paulo prior to COVID-19, and it will remain one. Without more governmental assistance to community organizations, inequality and homelessness will continue to escalate. President Bolsonaro has shown a general lack of empathy for impoverished Brazilians. Instead, he chooses to exude strength and use harsh law enforcement tactics to address societal issues. Fortunately, community action in São Paulo has shown that many have not given up on trying to help vulnerable populations during these challenging times.

Matthew Brown
Photo: Flickr

South African Orphans
In 2005, Michelle Potter traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, as a volunteer football coach. Some of her players on the team were homeless and resorted to begging on the streets to get by. Having left home at age 16, Potter was able to relate to the loneliness of entering adulthood without familial support and she wanted to help. In 2008, SAYes Transition Mentoring began. SAYes is a Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program that assists young South Africans, either living in or recently out of children’s homes, who are on the precipice of life on their own.

What SAYes Transition Mentoring Does

Governmental assistance for young South Africans living in children’s homes ends at age 18 and many do not have anywhere to go. SAYes Transition Mentoring pairs each participant with a highly trained mentor to offer support during this vulnerable transition period. Participants range from 14-25 years of age, giving priority to older youth, as they are the ones who are soon leaving or have already left residential care. Mentors work one-to-one with mentees for at least an hour a week during the nine-month program. The role of a mentor is to be a stable and non-judgmental ally. In many cases, this is the first positive relationship participants will have with an adult.

The Situation in South Africa

In 2019, South Africa ranked as the most economically unequal country in the world. This essentially means that the economy does not benefit all its people. In fact, the richest 20% of South Africans have control over almost 70% of the country’s resources.

SAYes is a program that emerged for those who are not fortunate enough to be in that top 20%. Many participants have had to leave their homes as a last resort because of abusive family situations. Some suffer from neglect, addiction, prostitution or an array of other adversities.

How SAYes Transition Mentoring Works

SAYes TIL care is specific to each participant depending on their age and developmental needs. The mentor offers guidance in education, housing, employment, personal development and community reintegration. One mentor, Mashudu Matshili, described the importance of mentorship with an old African saying: “If you want to know directions to a place, you need to ask those that have already reached the destination.”

The first few weeks, they get to know each other and find common ground. If the mentee is interested in a specific career field, the mentor might help facilitate an internship or job-shadowing opportunity. The mentor is a friend first, and then a guide to building the skills to live responsibly and independently.

Speaking fondly of his mentor, participant Destino Nzonzidi said, “I always say, I can forget away my pains, but not forget Tony for what he has done.” Many of the SAYes participants continue their relationship with their mentors long beyond the nine-month program and consider them family. More often than not, charities focus on young kids, not young adults. The benefit of SAYes Youth Mentoring has been huge and the proof in the success stories. SAYes Transition Mentoring serves over 100 young South Africans a year.

– Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Homelessness in Italy
Italy is located along the Mediterranean coastline. The European country has a population of more than 60 million people with an average of 95 million tourists visiting every year. What many are not aware of is that immigrants, women and children are especially vulnerable to experiencing homelessness in Italy. The fight against homelessness in Italy has become a more prominent issue. Police began fining homeless people in the street for not following the lockdown measures that the country implemented. Thus, the Italian Federation of Organizations for Homeless People has appealed for greater leniency from the state.

The organization wrote, “They cannot stay at home because they do not have a home. There is an economic sanction which they cannot pay, and they have to go to the magistrate. They are not on the street for fun.”

Historical Context of Homelessness in Italy

Though worsened by the pandemic, homelessness in Italy has long been an issue. Italy is a developed nation with a GDP that expectations have determined will be around $1920 billion in 2021. However, homelessness has worsened due to the economic crisis. In 2016, homelessness impacted 50,724 people in Italy. Since 2013, this number has increased by roughly 3,000. Furthermore, 5.1 million people were living in extreme poverty in 2017. Due to its geographical location, Italy receives an influx of immigrants. As a result, 58% of Italy’s impoverished population are immigrants. In 2017, 117,153 people arrived in Italy by ship. About 67% of these migrants use Caritas, a counseling service offering advice regarding homelessness. Homelessness impacts the region of Lombardia in northern Italy the most. According to Italian Caritas, there is an increase in youth homelessness as well.

The Good News

There are various organizations that are striving to fight homelessness in Italy. For example, the Baobab Experience is an organization that previously aimed to find shelter for 120 people who slept in Piazzale Spadolini (Tiburtina Station) and has continued to provide hospitality for the homeless population in Rome. Additionally, it has advocated that the homeless receive health checks, beginning with migrants who do not have residency permits. Many of these migrants avoid hospitals in fear of detainment, so this would allow them to check their health without those consequences.

The Baobab Experience emerged in 2015 as a result of a migratory emergency when 35,000 migrants passed through Baobab, located in Via Cupa, Rome. More than 70,000 people have passed through the camps that the organization has since established. Thanks to private donations, the Baobab Experience also supports individuals with medical and legal assistance. Furthermore, the organization provides water, food, clothing and an opportunity for leisure. Many of the migrants travel through Italy to reach other countries, however, others are asylum seekers, often must wait in the streets for months before any legal practice can begin.

Further Efforts

Other NGOs such as Asgi, Naga, Magistratura Democratica and Fondazione Migrantes have called on the government to protect vulnerable migrants and homeless people. The organizations argue that these people lack sufficient protection from COVID-19 and protecting them will improve public health. Additionally, the NGOs have requested authorities shut down large migrant reception centers, enable access to the international protection system, accept homeless people into appropriate facilities and create alternatives to detention centers.

Although the fight against homelessness in Italy remains a serious problem, especially for marginalized groups such as migrants, women and children, NGOs and similar organizations keep the government accountable and provide hope for all of those impacted. By supporting such organizations that positively impact the lives of thousands, we can all contribute to eliminating homelessness in Italy.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Guatemala: An UpdateIn Guatemala, more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Families of four or more live in small one or two-room huts — if a shelter is available at all. On average, a child is abandoned every four days because families do not have the means to take care of another child. Homelessness in Guatemala often forces people to sleep under benches or in the dirt.

Street Children

Among the homeless individuals in Guatemala, 7,000 of them are children and adolescents left to survive on their own. Many street children turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, which adds to the cycle of homelessness in Guatemala. Violence directed towards street children is not uncommon. The Guatemalan police’s use of deadly violence toward these children remained unchecked until the early 2000s, but the threat of physical harm has not been yet been completely abolished.

Homelessness in Guatemala is a ripple effect that has cyclical consequences for the children of the impoverished. It is often necessary to work instead of going to school. The little income they make working often does not stretch far.

More than a quarter of the population of children in Guatemala are actively involved in child labor out of necessity. One in four children under the age of 15 is illiterate. Chronic malnutrition and hunger are a consistent part of life. Without access to proper education or nutrition, the children of the impoverished do not have the ability to move forward.

Inadequate Housing Plagues Families

Traditionally, Guatemalan culture revolves around family. Tight-knit communities are hindered by a lack of funds, nutritional food and educational opportunities. Those with shelter often live in small huts with a tin roof and dirt floors. Children, parents and grandparents often live together without running water or electricity. Diseases plague newborns and small children due to an inability to keep housing sanitary, leading to high infant death rates. Medical care is frequently nonexistent.

Cooking is done over an open fire kept inside the home, leaving the women and children breathing in smoke for hours at a time with no ventilation. Some houses are made from straw or wood, both of which are extremely flammable and pose an additional risk to families inside while food is being prepared. As a result, respiratory illness affects a large portion of the poor population and the idling soot becomes toxic for the entire family. Without running water, there is no way to properly clean the soot and, without electricity, there is no other option for families to cook food.

The Plight of the Indigenous Woman

Half of the homeless in Guatemala are indigenous women. Indigenous impoverished women not only suffer the fallout of poverty but face racism and gender-based violence.

Compared to the rest of the country, including non-indigenous Guatemalan women, indigenous women have a higher chance of having multiple unplanned children, living in poverty and being illiterate. The birth mortality rate for women of native heritage is double that of non-indigenous women, who also have a life expectancy of 13 more years compared to that of indigenous women. These women are malnourished and underpaid. The inequality trickles down to their children who face food insecurity, a lack of education and, if they are young girls, the same fear of violence and racism their mothers have endured.

Housing Aid in Guatemala

Basic human necessities are not available for many in Guatemala and haven’t been for generations. However, The Guatemala Housing Alliance is focused on providing proper shelter to families and works in tandem with other groups aiming to help education, food insecurity and sexual education for the impoverished in Guatemala.

The Guatemala Housing Alliance built 47 homes with wood-conserving stoves that eliminate the danger of open-fire cooking. It installed flooring in 138 homes that previously had dirt floors. The foundation also offers to counsel young children and has hosted workshops for women to speak openly and learn about sanitation, nutrition and their legal rights.

Even amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Guatemala Housing Alliance is still hard at work. It provided 1,340 parcels of food, and each parcel supports a family of four for two weeks. With the organization’s many goals, individuals who are homeless in Guatemala are slowly but surely being given access to a plethora of resources that can help improve their quality of life.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Germany
Located in Central Europe, tourists visit Germany to enjoy its world-famous beer, flavorful bread and historic castles. However, despite Germany’s booming economy, the country suffers from a high rate of homelessness. According to the Federal Association for Assistance to Homeless People (BAGW), approximately 650,000 Germans currently do not own a home. Two German restaurants, Hofbraeu Berlin and Istanbul Kebap Pizza, as well as the nonprofit organizations, Rise Foundation e.V. and v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel, strive to tackle homelessness in Germany by offering housing, food, job training, counseling and basic necessities to those living on the streets.

German Restaurants

Many restaurants in Germany have begun donating their food to the homeless population. However, two establishments called Istanbul Kebap Pizza and Hofbraeu Berlin stand out for engaging in charity work.

Located in Koblenz, Germany, Istanbul Kebap Pizza hands out complimentary food to homeless individuals who come in on Thursday evenings. The restaurant produces a surplus of leftover food at the end of the day, which guests gratefully consume. The homeless can enjoy a wide variety of Turkish cuisine, such as “doner, pizza and other meals.”

The Hofbraeu Berlin restaurant in Berlin, Germany used to attract thousands of tourists during peak seasons. However, after COVID-19 cases became rampant in Germany, the restaurant put a stop to dine-in eating. Now, the business offers a place for homeless people to relax and enjoy free gourmet meals and regular food. In addition to offering food, the restaurant’s continuation of public bathroom usage allows individuals to remain clean and sanitary. Non-profit organizations also frequent the restaurant to give professional guidance and warm garments to the guests.

Rise Foundation e.V.

The Rise Foundation e.V. began in 2018 and strives to eradicate homelessness in Germany by encouraging human connection and handing out food and basic necessities. With the help of volunteers, the organization cooks homemade vegetarian meals and heats up tea and coffee to provide the homeless with warm meals. Volunteers attempt to establish a relationship with homeless people to demonstrate compassion and respect. The foundation also hands out first aid kits, hygiene products, clothes and other basic necessities, as well as pamphlets on useful resources, such as where to find places to sleep, free healthcare services, professional guidance and recreational activities.

v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel

v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel was founded in 1867 with a mission to help elderly, unemployed, disabled and mentally ill individuals, as well as children and college students. More specifically, the organization aids the homeless in obtaining housing and finding self-autonomy. It does this by providing a place for the homeless to temporarily stay and assisting them in obtaining permanent housing.

Bethel Foundation volunteers also go to homeless communities and provide medical care, including counseling services for mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. Furthermore, the foundation teaches essential skills needed for securing a job and provides guidance on how to search for employment.

Overall, the efforts of German restaurants and nonprofit organizations help many homeless individuals obtain basic necessities and find their independence. As more entities join the fight against homelessness in Germany, the nation will hopefully see a decrease in the number of people living on the streets.

Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Helping the Homeless
When topics of direct involvement to relieve global poverty come up in casual conversation, young people sometimes find new and innovative ways they can volunteer. Since young adults and teenagers often do not have a lot of disposable income to donate to causes that speak to them, they may choose to involve themselves with an NGO they can give their time and energy to. This is where Un Techo Para mi Pais, or TECHO, comes in as it has an impeccable volunteering model. Techo is a South American nonprofit that emerged in 1997 in Santiago, Chile. Since 2001, the organization began its expansion throughout Latin America, and by 2010, TECHO was one of the most prominent entities providing natural disaster relief to nine South American nations and helping the homeless.

About TECHO

TECHO’s main aim is to decrease homelessness rates on the South American continent, while improving the quality of life of those in comunas and favelas, building sanitary and safe communities and employing the work and energy of volunteers. As of 2021, Techo operates in 19 Latin American countries, with over a million volunteers across the continent helping the homeless and impoverished communities.

TECHO’s initiative consists of not only providing marginalized and impoverished communities with the dignity they deserve but also linking the volunteers with the communities they are aiding. The organization discusses each community’s specific needs as it helps design a unique action plan for each neighborhood and settlement. Joint action occurs as volunteers and settlement dwellers construct paved roads, community centers and emergency homes. The latter is their most popular project: modular prefabricated spaces that are easy and fast to build and provide shelter and insulation from the elements to families in need.

How Young People Can Participate

One does not need formal training in construction or city planning, as teenagers as young as 14 can participate by following a simple guide and plan of action. Young volunteers can do a wide range of jobs, such as asking for pecuniary donations as individuals or with their schools, collecting construction materials and assisting at construction sites to lend a hand. It is through this hands-on model that TECHO has become a very popular “club” to be part of within Latin American cities, as young people dedicate a lot of their time to campaigns fighting extreme poverty while learning about systemic and structural problems their particular societies face at a community level.

Anyone Can Help

Professionals are also necessary at TECHO for the most ambitious plans, and the organization accepts almost all areas of expertise including volunteer firefighters, cooks, construction workers and nurses. Even those with no experience in humanitarian aid or those without a formal profession can help, as according to the organization, “The first step is to get to know the organization’s model very well, and the tools necessary to carry out your role. Then, TECHO seeks to offer various activities that will help you to deepen your knowledge on topics such as poverty and human rights. No previous experience is required to lend a hand.”

The Inter-American Development Bank recently gave TECHO the rank of fourth most visionary organization of Latin America. Moreover, the organization is currently working on more than 500 settlements across Latin America hoping to expand its reach into the most precarious areas of the region, helping the homeless and providing many more families with dignified services and homes.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in BosniaHomelessness in Bosnia is a multinational emergency. Recent snowfalls in Bosnia’s Northwest region threaten the lives of thousands of migrants. The region, a de facto landing ground for thousands of migrants, is the site of a mounting humanitarian crisis. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which functions as a buffer state between the Eurozone and parts of eastern Europe, have served as holding grounds for migrants. Even more worrying, the COVID-19 pandemic has further strained these communities.

COVID-19 Emergency Shelters

At the beginning of the pandemic, close to 2,500 migrants struggled without access to shelter. As a result, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) established a facility that could serve as living quarters for 1,000 migrants in Bihac, one of Bosnia’s major northern cities. The facility provided “basic humanitarian aid, including accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care.” Previously, IOM increased the capacity of a shelter in the Bosnian capital city of Sarajevo.

Both measures were taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between and among homeless migrant and civilian populations. To say the least, homelessness in Bosnia is a complicated subject. In addition, for Bosnia’s civilian population, it’s a source of ongoing tension. By mitigating interactions between migrant and civilian populations, IOM interventions were designed to resolve tensions.

Tensions between migrants and local authorities haven’t been quelled, however. Reports of looting and vagrancy led local authorities to close migrant camps around the country. In late September, after local authorities evicted hundreds of migrants from a migrant camp in Bihac, Peter Van der Auweraert, an IOM official, called on state authorities to take control of the situation.

Homelessness in Bosnia

At least 2,500 of the 10,000 migrants who are held up in Bosnia, in limbo between the Eurozone and the countries they fled, live outside without proper shelter. They are exposed to the elements, and seasonal weather conditions will make their situation much worse. IOM tent camps have served as temporary shelters, but they are inadequate solutions for the winter.

An estimated 25% of rural Bosnians live in poverty. This statistic doesn’t include the rate of poverty among migrants who live in the country. A variety of reasons have been cited for Bosnia’s poor economy. However, the fact of the matter is that Bosnia lacks the resources to provide safe facilities for migrants.  

Appeals for Additional Support

There is no clear solution to the dangerous conditions that migrants in Bosnia will have to endure this winter. However, one could come from a collaboration of the Bosnian government with governments in the Eurozone and international organizations. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the Bosnian government to construct emergency facilities. In addition, it cited international law as the basis for its demand. In an effort to ensure that international law is upheld, Amnesty International filed a complaint against local authorities after reports of violence against migrants were reported.

To that end, Euro-Med Monitor underlined the role of the European Union to “establish a monitoring mechanism in Croatia to ensure that the authorities deployed at the borders respect migrants’ fundamental rights and European law, including their safe access to asylum procedures.” Additionally, IOM began to distribute winter kits, including food and sleeping bags, to thousands of migrants in October. Future funding may come as a result of the United Nation’s appeal for $455 million to address the global refugee crisis.

A concerted effort between advocacy groups and governments is required. So long as the world decides that Bosnia’s marginalized populations deserve the world’s support, then there is hope.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

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

Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Programs Aiming to Curb Homelessness in CanadaOn any given day, there are 35,000 people experiencing homelessness in Canada. There are governmental policies put in place to alleviate people from experiencing homelessness but the policies are not enough to end homelessness. Here are a couple of programs that are working to curb homelessness in Canada.

The New Leaf Project

This program is a study where 50 homeless Canadians are given 7,500 Canadian dollars and their lives would be examined over the next 12 to 18 months in comparison to a control group that received no money. It has been argued that providing funding to the homeless population is not effective as it is assumed they would spend it on drugs and alcohol. However, the findings in this study say the contrary. The New Leaf Project found that homeless people spent the money on things they need and were able to secure housing faster than the control group.

It was also found that people who received the money had food security as well. About 70% of the people who received funding were able to find food within the first month and maintained greater food security for the rest of the year.

Another finding revealed that those who received funding spent most of it on rent, clothing and food. There was a 39% decrease in purchasing drugs or alcohol as well. Some people spent the money on other necessities like transportation whether it was a bike or for repairs to their vehicles. Some even bought a computer or saved money to start a business. The study only proved that when you invest in the homeless, they are more likely to spend money on things that can improve their quality of life.

Housing First in Canada: At Home/Chez Soi

This program was another study that tested the effectiveness of Housing First on Canadians back in 2009. Housing First, which originates from New York City in the 1990s, provides rapid housing combined with additional support for homeless people with mental health issues and drug addiction. The program achieved major success in New York City, so the people of At Home/Chez Soi wanted to see if the success can be replicated here in Canada.

Prior to the study, there were a few Canadian cities that had plans to reduce homelessness. However, there was a lack of innovation to push beyond just having shelters. There was also a lack of federal funding to focus on the root causes and preventable approaches to homelessness in Canada.

Since the launch of Housing First in Canada, about 70 Canadian cities have adopted the program and have helped over 1,000 Canadians find safe and affordable housing where many continued to stay after a decade. This study proves that “when communities use their existing skills and knowledge and combine that with a strong tool-kit like At Home/Chez Soi, they can help to address the needs of local populations and go a long way to curbing homelessness.”

An Overview of Homelessness in Canada

Homelessness was not considered to be an issue until the late 1980s. People did experience homelessness prior to that time, however, it was not as common as it is today.

The Canadian government did enact the National Housing Act in 1973 which provided social housing for low-income citizens, but social housing and other related programs were cut back in 1984. By the time 1987 hit, the government cutback caused a surge in homelessness.

By 1996, federal spending on constructing new social housing ceased and the federal government handed the responsibility for most existing social housing to the provinces. Like homeless people in many countries, homeless people in Canada rely on non-profit organizations to attend to their needs. All non-profits agree that “strategies to address homelessness must be tailored to each population group’s needs.”

Homeless people also rely on shelters for their needs. There are emergency shelters that provide shared sleeping facilities and some offer private rooms. However, these shelters expect clients to leave the morning after. Some shelters offer mid-term housing solutions and some have developed long-term housing units. These shelters also provide food, clothing, laundry services and references to other services or organizations. Other shelters offer counseling, legal assistance, harm reduction and advocacy.

While there are services available to help those experiencing homelessness in Canada, it is not enough to address the root causes of homelessness and prevent it from happening in the first place. Investing in the homeless is a viable option to help identify these root causes and end homelessness in Canada.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr