Unseen Tours and Homelessness
Homelessness refers to people who do not have a secure place to live, or if they did, they could not stay. Homelessness is a symptom of poverty and many organizations have offered help to homeless people by providing financial aid, free meals and shelters. One British organization, Unseen Tours, has acted differently by hiring homeless individuals in London as tour guides offering tours to tourists and locals. This article will discuss the causes of homelessness before looking at the work of Unseen Tours and its accomplishments.

Causes of Homelessness

According to research by Shelter in 2021, nearly 280,000 people were homeless in England; among them, more than 120,000 were children. In addition, the data shows that London had the highest ratio of homeless people with one in 53 people having no place to live. Here are some important causes of homelessness in Great Britain:

  1. Unemployment: Without a job, people cannot afford to pay rent or mortgage payments. In turn, this contributes to a rise in homelessness among those who were financially struggling before they became unemployed.
  2. Poverty Trap: This factor is a consequence of unemployment. When someone loses their home because they fail to make a rent or mortgage payment, their credit rating suffers. As a result, it becomes more challenging for that person to find an alternative home.
  3. Bereavement: A person could become homeless if their financial supporters die. This makes it difficult for the vulnerable to sustain themselves.

Unseen Tours

Established in 2010, Unseen Tours aims to provide a platform for homeless people to tell their stories. The organization wants to change conventional perspectives on the homeless such as the stereotype of laziness. To do so, Unseen Tours employs homeless people as guides in London who offer tours for tourists and locals. This allows the homeless to use their knowledge for the benefit of the city. Not only does the job boost the confidence of the needy, but it also equips them with useful skills.

Moreover, Unseen Tours also works closely with other organizations that share similar objectives. Together, they organize training programs for guides and signpost them to additional support.

Accomplishments

In 2020, Unseen Tours celebrated its 10th birthday and won a Homeless Link Excellence Award. Since the establishment of Unseen Tours, 24 homeless guides have worked with the organization, holding more than 450 tours with more than 6,500 customers.

Overall, homelessness is a common social issue in different parts of the world. A substantial number of organizations have taken steps to help the homeless. While shelter and financial aid are necessary for homeless people, work opportunities are also valuable because unemployment is one of the core causes of homelessness. Moreover, working allows vulnerable individuals to rebuild their confidence and self-esteem. Unseen Tours has taken a novel approach to combat homelessness and their work should serve as a model for other industrialized nations dealing with homelessness.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Flickr

Niamey 2000
There is a strong need for a homelessness solution in Niger and a housing solution like the Niamey 2000 might just be it. Several facts about Niger provide some insight as to why the Niamey 2000 project began in the first place.

5 Facts About Niger

  1. According to Reuters, many impoverished people in Niger build their houses out of “earth or mud,” making the homes susceptible to destruction from natural disasters and extreme weather events. This, in turn, leaves many disadvantaged households at an increased risk of homelessness.
  2. According to the World Bank, in 2021, more than 10 million people in Niger, or about 42% of the population, lived in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day.
  3. World Bank data places Niger’s GDP at almost $15 billion in 2021, gradually climbing from just $2.24 billion in 2000.
  4. According to the United Nations, Niger stands as one of the least developed countries in the world.
  5. The country is dealing with large numbers of refugees coming in as a result of conflicts in neighboring countries, placing strain on the country’s already minimal resources. Extreme weather patterns, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation rates are hampering economic growth in Niger, the World Bank stated.

Niamey 2000

An article written by ArchDaily explains that Niamey, the capital of Niger, has more than 1 million residents and most of the population lives in conditions of poverty. The city is experiencing rapid urbanization, with an expected population increase of 5% annually until 2030.

Because the country is landlocked, it is difficult, “expensive and unsustainable” to continue using popular construction materials, like concrete, for the building of homes. Recognizing the need for affordable housing, Nigerian architect Mariam Kamara led the Niamey 2000 housing project with her design firm, United4Design. The project reached completion in 2016.

The Niamey 2000 is an affordable multi-family housing development spanning 18,000 square feet. Kamara and the team designed the project to specifically address Niamey’s housing crisis while also meeting the needs and wants of the people of Niamey.

Practicality and Desirability

The building utilizes a material called compressed earth block (CEB), which consists of clay and sand. CEBs are more resistant to the elements and natural disasters and help keep the inside of homes cool in warm climates. CEBs are also more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than conventional concrete because of the natural materials and the fact that the bricks do not require importing. Not only are these blocks cheaper and more sustainable but the manufacturing process creates jobs for laborers in Niamey.

The housing development minimizes urban sprawl while conserving space. High-rise buildings and apartments do not fit the culture and norms of Niamey, therefore, the project chose to build only a few stories high.

The Future of Housing in Niamey

The Niamey 2000 project received a 2017 R+D Award from Architect Magazine for its potential to “bring relief to the region’s housing crisis while respecting locals preferences in residential design.” In addition, Niamey 2000 made the shortlist for the 2022 Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Finding a comprehensive homelessness solution in Niger is no easy feat but innovative ideas like the Niamey 2000 project will no doubt lead to more progress.

– Ava Ronning
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Greater Manchester
Poverty in Greater Manchester has been rising over the years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Its government has devised several solutions to address the issue.

COVID-19 Impacts on Greater Manchester

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a collapse of the Greater Manchester economy as more than 4,000 businesses failed. The unemployment resulting from such business closures caused the number of people relying on Universal Credit to rise from 65,820 to 240,460, “a 38% increase from March 2020” to April 2020. It is because of these struggles and poverty in Greater Manchester that people have connected to form community awareness groups such as The Elephant’s Trail.

Homelessness and Poverty

A video produced in the town of Bury by The Elephant’s Trail titled “Made in Bury: Elephant in the Room” included interviews with the locals facing the pandemic’s impacts. Issues, such as homelessness and the inability to afford food, afflicted many people throughout the Greater Manchester area.

According to a Poverty Monitor that Greater Manchester Poverty Action managed, a nonprofit organization that focuses on reducing and preventing poverty in the county, in 2022, 144,770 children (one in four) are living in poverty and the number of food banks needed has increased twofold in the last five years.

Also, 15% of all households are facing fuel poverty, and “195,000 workers earn less than the Real Living Wage of £9.90 an hour,” the Poverty Monitor said. In terms of homelessness, the number of homelessness duties in Greater Manchester increased from 5,366 in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 6,015 in the third quarter of 2021.

Response and Solutions

Leaders have introduced several solutions to poverty in Greater Manchester, including digital solutions. Amid the pandemic, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority developed the Greater Manchester Digital Platform, which includes an app that helps those in need connect to volunteers and support systems to assist them in tasks such as obtaining necessary food and medicine. It aims to reach all 2.8 million citizens of Greater Manchester.

In response to food poverty, in October 2021, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, launched the Food Security Action Network. The Food Security Action Network addressed food poverty by distributing more than “7,000 emergency food cards” for youth and “funding grassroots organizations” to provide support to those not eligible for other support. In October 2020, The No Child Should Go Hungry campaign launched. It provided free school meals to those not eligible and more than “13,000 Emergency Food Cards” for youth to use at grocery stores.

The Greater Manchester Homelessness Action Network (GMHAN), which originated in 2017, is a network working with leaders to help the homeless. It provided funds to homeless shelters across towns in Greater Manchester. GMHAN also co-produced the Rough Sleeping Action Plan, a long-term strategy that addresses homelessness and makes plans to partner with agencies, businesses and communities to ensure support for those experiencing hardship. So far, Greater Manchester notes a reduction in “rough sleeping” of 29% from 2020 to 2021 and 67% since 2017.

The Elephant’s Trail

The Elephant’s Trail is a group of people from Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Salford. The members aim to be the voice for others suffering from poverty by documenting real-life experiences through film. Their goal is to bring awareness of poverty in Greater Manchester to the area’s leaders.

The Elephant’s Trail has partnered with other local and regional organizations such as Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Petrus Community and Unlimited Potential to aid the people of Greater Manchester. People who have worked with The Elephant’s Trail have said that the work has changed their lives because of its focus on co-production, or people with lived experience and professionals working together to develop solutions to common issues.

“Made in Bury: Elephant in the Room,” a video that a “reporting team from The Elephant’s Trail and video journalists at The Guardian” created, interviews residents of Bury about their personal experiences and how local group efforts help, such as housing and food that the Manna House provided. This kind of personal reporting helps top leaders make important decisions about poverty-reducing legislation and funding. In the video, Melanie Humphrey of The Elephant’s Trail stated, “How amazing to have a group of people with lived experience able to advise those people that really are at the top.”

The Future of Poverty in Greater Manchester

Poverty in Greater Manchester has seen some slight improvements due to the efforts of its leaders. The impacts of the pandemic still linger all across the nation, increasing the number of people experiencing mental disorders, malnutrition and homelessness. Efforts and successes like The Elephant’s Trail, which brings poverty in Greater Manchester right before the eyes of the government, inspire others to take action. With consistent efforts, the government of Greater Manchester can reduce both poverty and homelessness.

– Tara Boehringer
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in England
COVID-19 rocked the planet when it first came into the limelight during 2020, and it only spiraled out of control as the year went on and more and more countries went into lockdown. England has had a notoriously significant homeless issue with almost 220,000 homeless people by the end of 2019, up from the almost 208,000 homeless people in 2018. The average age for many of these men and women is between 40 and 50 years of age. There are also many types of homelessness in England. These types include rough sleeping, statutory homelessness, hidden homelessness and those who are at risk of homelessness.

Types of Homelessness

  • Rough Sleeping: One can define rough sleeping as the most noticeable form of homelessness. It is also the most stereotypical or the one people know the best. It is where someone finds themselves sleeping on the streets, without any form of temporary housing. Alongside the already troublesome issue of having to find somewhere safe to sleep for the night, the longer someone finds themselves sleeping rough, the higher the chances are of them facing some level of injury, mental or physical.
  • Statutory Homelessness: Statutory homelessness is the struggle of gaining housing through local jurisdiction. Often, people must be able to go through the legal hoops to secure proper housing.
  • Hidden Homelessness: Hidden homelessness involves those who cannot gain housing through local jurisdictions, or simply do not reach out and use the systems available to them for help. In England, official government statistics exclude people experiencing hidden homelessness, because these people may temporarily stay with friends or family, or in hotels, and so on. This is one of the most non-visible forms of homelessness.
  • At Risk of Homelessness: Those who are at risk of homelessness can find themselves close to homelessness due to many circumstances. Low-paying jobs, unstable housing and poverty can all lead to homelessness.

The “Everyone In Initiative

Before 2019, homelessness in England was on the rise. A set of data from the early to mid-late 2010s showed an astronomically high increase from more than 1,000 to more than 4,000 homeless people, a percentile increases of 168%. The government’s response to the pandemic was to implement an initiative known as “Everyone In.” This initiative advised all local jurisdictions to provide shelter and housing for those sleeping rough and who lived in conditions that shut out the ability to social distance. Some of these conditions included shelters and temporary housing centers.

To date, more than 25,000 people have received housing since the pandemic began, allowing for longer-term support for those in need. While more than 25,000 have permanent housing, around 10,000 still live in temporary or unstable housing.

Before COVID-19, English Parliament had other acts in the works to help combat the homelessness issue in the country. Parliament introduced an act called the Homeless Reduction Act 2017. The creation of this act was to help those at risk of homelessness. This piece of legislation acted as a safeguard to protect those in need. Households across the country can file for a type of aid.

During COVID-19, the “Everyone In” plan led to lower rates of infection and death rates among the homeless population. Before December 2020, the aid program protected more than 30,000 people with more than 10,000 entering crisis housing and less than 25,000 entering prolonged housing. In the fall of 2020, less than 3,000 people slept rough on a single night. This number has been steadily decreasing since 2018 when the number was a high of more than 6,000 people. Around the same time, about 66% of rough sleepers were outside of London and the South East. In the South East, less than 500 people were sleeping rough, which was down from around 900 the previous year. Since the beginning of the 2010s, the decrease from 2019 to 2020 was the highest it has ever been. There were over 400 fewer people sleeping rough in London.

Homelessness is Still a Major Issue

More than 65,000 households sought assistance from local jurisdiction councils in 2021. Between October and December 2020, approximately 60,000 households were at risk of homelessness, a 9% decrease from the 56,000 seen in 2019. This represents a significant decrease from October to December 2019, when the pandemic began in England.

Research has determined that there are still more than 30,000 households that are homeless and are eligible for assistance. From October to December 2019, the number of households increased by less than 1%. Despite this, the percentage of homeless homes and families with children has decreased by 13%. While homelessness in England has increased slightly since the previous quarterly update, the number of households with homeless children has decreased.

Homelessness in England during COVID-19 has been an ongoing issue, although there is light in the dark times due to the pandemic. Through the pandemic, large numbers of homeless people have been able to gain temporary or even permanent housing. Thousands of people have been able to properly social distance. Though the pandemic has rocked the world, there has been a shining light through the English people coming together to lower problems of homelessness across the country.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Unsplash

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