Homelessness IndiaHomelessness in India is on the rise. Many people are turning to the streets as a place to sleep and find income by performing hard labor. Children living on the street are also becoming very common for many reasons, including abuse and family abandonment.

Causes

Factors that contribute to homelessness include impairment, a shortage of housing affordability, irregular or long-term unemployment and shifts in business. Policymakers state that the cause of homelessness is substance addiction, mental illness, relationship failures and domestic abuse. Prime Minister Modi has set a goal to eradicate homelessness by 2022, but the government has made no progress thus far.

Street Children

As a result of urbanization, poverty and other factors, children end up on the streets. In India, there are more than 400,000 children living on the street. According to UNICEF, there are four categories of street children. There are high-risk kids who stay with families, but labor on the streets for a living. Then there are children who mainly live on the street, but spend some time with family. There are children who spend a good deal of time on the streets and therefore do not live with or communicate with family. Finally, there are orphaned children who are left alone with no caring adults.

Children who end up on the street are often subjected to neglect and physical and emotional abuse at home. Once on the street, children experience trafficking and/or heavy labor as they flee their families in hopes of a new life. Children as young as 6 years old skim through the litter in search of money to survive.

How Unemployment Has Contributed to Homelessness

Because education is more expensive for the average Indian than for the average American or European, more Indians are becoming unemployed. India’s average per capita income is only slightly more than $1,200, compared to the United States’ $54,510. This economic discrepancy shows why economic security is so difficult for Indians to achieve.

Challenges Homeless in India Face

Due to severe weather, seven homeless people die every day in Delhi. Homeless people have very little access to healthcare services. The absence of proper identification documentation needed by hospitals, the expenses and the tendency of physicians to openly reject them are just a few of the factors. According to a study taken by the United Nations Development Programme in 2010, less than 3% of homeless people in India had an ID.

Aid Available

Street kids have benefited from drop-in centers. These centers are set up by one of several NGOs working to assist the homeless in India. Salam Baalak Trust (SBT) is one such organization that has been functioning in Delhi since 1989. SBT operates four community centers that are open 24/7 and can accommodate up to 220 children at any given time. This group has aided 3,500 children living on the streets. Free clothes, food, schooling, support and rehabilitation programs are all available at SBT facilities.

Other NGOs offer different services to the homeless in India. Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan operates as an advocate for the homeless and Pehchan assists the homeless in getting proper identification, for example. With organizations such as these, as well as others, there is hope for the future of the homeless population of India.

– Rand Lateef
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in IndonesiaThe streets are showered in debris, rescue dogs rummage through rubble and more than 400 homes are collapsed in piles where they previously stood. Such a sight followed the earthquake that hit Mamuju, the provincial capital of West Sulawesi in Indonesia, on January 15, 2021. With at least 82 dead and around 30,000 displaced, the aftershocks are devastating. However, for many Indonesians, stories like this one are painfully familiar as natural disasters are common and homelessness in Indonesia is rampant.

Natural Disasters, Poverty and Homelessness

Sitting on the fault line of three tectonic plates, Indonesia experiences earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or lower almost daily. Major natural disasters have hit Indonesia on average once a month since 2004. These events, including tsunamis, landslides and even volcanic eruptions, destroy homes and communities. Each crisis pushes the rate of homelessness in Indonesia higher. Of course, poverty and inequality also play important parts in explaining why almost three million (1.14%) Indonesians are homeless. Natural disasters pose a unique and pressing challenge to governments and organizations trying to fight homelessness, especially in natural disaster-prone areas.

Homelessness in Indonesia

From the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s till the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia enjoyed commendable economic growth. It also joined the G20 and cemented its status as a low middle-income country. The poverty rate more than halved from 1999 standing at 9.78% in 2020. On many fronts, Indonesia shows potential for significant economic and social development in the first half of the 21st century.

That being said, the COVID-19 pandemic has undone some of Indonesia’s progress from the last two decades. From March to September of 2020, official statistics reported that an additional one million Indonesians had dropped below the national poverty line. At least 2.8 million Indonesians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and another 70 million informal workers are at risk of unemployment in the near future.

Against this backdrop, homelessness in Indonesia remains a serious problem. In the first half of 2020, natural disasters displaced an estimated 508,000 Indonesians. Adding to the gravity of these high numbers, natural disasters are no temporary predicament. One year after earthquakes and a tsunami hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island on September 28, 2018, an estimated 57,000 people still remain homeless. Moreover, around 25 million Indonesians live in slums or other temporary housing. A recent survey found that even in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, thousands are at risk of becoming homeless because they are unable to pay rent.

Global Endeavors

Habitat for Humanity, the World Bank, USAID and the Asian Development Bank, among many others, fight homelessness in Indonesia through investment and development expertise. Habitat for Humanity has been working in Indonesia since 1997. In 2019, it helped more than 77,000 Indonesians through a combination of housing, market development and water and sanitation programs. In an effort to promote resilience and recovery in the face of natural disasters, Habitat for Humanity constructs concrete-reinforced houses, provides rubble removal and emergency hygiene kits and rebuilds houses that have collapsed from earthquakes or landslides.

In 2019, the World Bank committed almost $2 billion to projects in Indonesia. These address a broad range of development goals, including infrastructure, the maritime economy and sustainable and universal energy access. In 2017, the World Bank committed $450 million to Indonesia’s National Affordable Housing Program. This program aims to increase access to quality housing through a three-pronged approach of easier financing, household improvements and technical assistance for policy reform. By 2020, the program had already led to housing improvements for more than half a million households.

Vision Indonesia 2045

In 2018, the Indonesian government unveiled an ambitious plan for how the country should develop by 2045, the centennial of Indonesia’s independence. Although the plan spans everything from defense to innovation policy, the central pillars are peace and prosperity. One of the more specific goals is to reach an annual GDP per capita of more than $19,794. This would propel Indonesia into the realm of upper-middle-income countries and usher in lower rates of poverty and homelessness. Especially with the World Bank’s recent commitment of $250 million to support Indonesia’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, the current crisis is unlikely to derail Indonesia’s goals. If Indonesia realizes its growth potential and foreign aid continues bolstering its natural disaster and housing resilience, homelessness in Indonesia will decline, protecting millions of vulnerable people.

Alexander Vanezis
Photo:Flickr