Inflammation and stories on Housing

The Future of Eco Building Materials
Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible. Additionally, it is resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green building is the future for more developed countries and for impoverished nations. Re-using already existing materials for structural foundations greatly benefits impoverished regions. Several of these eco-building materials consist of discarded plastics, trash and compost.

The need for more environmental-friendly building materials arose from atmospheric pollution and the lack of energy conservation. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is what jumpstarted this movement to create eco-building materials. Moreover, this resulted in the creation of several organizations.

Organizations Fighting for Greener Building Materials

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) strives to transform the way people design, build and operate buildings and communities. In addition, it enables an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. This is one of the primary organizations that began to actually shed light on the urgency of the issue. Since then, numerous companies have emerged to offer newer and greener alternatives to current building materials.

Additionally, Rammed Earth Works is another company devoted to providing eco-building materials. The housing concept incorporates exposed earth walls. Housing infrastructures recognize rammed earth as a low carbon releasing process that offers an environmentally safer and more sustainable option. Furthermore, this particular process involves the layering of sediment and waste runoff to structure an exposed wall of rock that creates somewhat of a retro aesthetic. This method is more environmentally friendly and is accessible to people in areas of extreme poverty.

Recent Developments

Many people imagine fluffy pink fiberglass when considering insulation. However, a much safer and less carbon-emitting alternative is sheep wool. Yet, the actual aggregational makeup of fiberglass is harmful to the touch. Other greener insulating alternatives offer an easier installation process. In addition, it generally consists of 70% recycled materials. Sheep wool is a much more accessible product to countries currently fighting immense poverty.

One of the more recent developments in the invention of a building brick comprised entirely of recycled plastics. This new brick is not only a greener alternative to concrete blocks but is also reportedly seven times stronger and more durable. Nzambi Matee creates the bricks by breaking down plastics that can no longer be recycled or repurposed. Matee’s factory is in Kenya and has already recycled 20 tons of plastics since 2017.

Developing countries are on the path to environmental and economic success with the discovery and creation of new, greener building technologies. Having access to these materials allows these countries to evolve structurally and economically while preventing pollution.

– Caroline Kratz
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

Child Poverty in Canada
While Canada is one of the world’s more developed economies, the country has had serious issues with its child poverty rates. Child poverty in Canada sits at the 23rd position out of 35 industrialized nations when comparing the gap between overall poverty rates to child poverty rates.

Facts About Child Poverty in Canada

In Canada, 26% of children— a little more than one out of every five children — suffer from childhood poverty. This number puts Canada in the bottom third of industrialized countries with child poverty, representing 1.3 million children. 8% of impoverished children under the age of 6. Furthermore, one-seventh of people in homeless shelters are children. One in every three food bank users is under the age of 18. These statistics illustrate the staggering number of children suffering from poverty. While Canada has been making strides to address the issue, it needs to do much more work.

Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty

Campaign 2000 is a movement that formed in 1991 over concerns that the government was not doing enough to address child poverty. It is a network of organizations that work on addressing poverty and issues children face across the country. The organization initially committed to eliminating child poverty by the year 2000 during an All-Party Resolution in the House of Commons. The pledge to end child poverty in Canada underwent renewal in 2009 and in 2015 and continued through this movement.

The group also works on advancing public and government consultations and making long-lasting changes through lobbying and advocacy. Campaign 2000 specifically focuses on ensuring that all actions are bipartisan and can be supported by everyone. Through all these actions, the group aims to raise the basic standard of living for all Canadian children so that none live in poverty and all can become active and contributing members of society. This standard includes affordable and safe housing. Finding ways to strengthen family support ensures that families can provide the best care for their kids.

Next Steps

While Canada has made progress throughout the past few years, there is much room for growth. UNICEF believes there are two main steps that the government needs to take.

The first is to increase transfers and tax benefits that go towards children and resources for children. By increasing the Child Tax Benefit to a minimum of $5,000, thousands of children in Canada would be lifted out of poverty. These children would gain the resources necessary to become active members of society and have stable food and housing.

The second is to create a formal definition of child poverty within the nation. By doing so, local governments should each create a strategy to eliminate child poverty in Canada. At a minimum, the goal should be to push it down to 5% to match the lowest level of any industrialized country.

Canada sits in the bottom third of industrialized countries in terms of child poverty rates. Canada needs to make a lot more progress, but organizations like Campaign 2000 are working toward it. Moving forward, the Canadian government needs to take a firmer stance when it comes to addressing child poverty in Canada and adapt policies and benefits in order to ensure Canadian children aren’t suffering.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Thailand
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and many tourists know it as an exciting, vibrant and relaxing vacation destination. Even though many people live in high-quality and high-income housing, others live in poor-quality housing without running water or electricity. Due to urbanization without necessary accommodations to support the needs of low-income residents, slum and squatter settlements emerged with 84% of slum settlements residing in Thailand. The Baan Mankong Program addresses this issue and helps poor communities in Bangkok improve their housing and their relationship with the local government. Here is some information about how the Baan Mankong Program is aiding poverty eradication in Thailand.

What is the Baan Mankong Program?

The Baan Mankong Program is a secure housing program from the Community Organizations Development Institute in Thailand. CODI started in 1992 with the purpose of learning about the lives of the poor and encouraging a partnership with its local governments to improve the living conditions of the poor. Launched in 2003, the program emerged under the National Housing Authority with a grant of $34 million U.S. dollars from the Thai government to give loans to organizations devoted to providing housing for poor communities in Bangkok.

Why is Secure Housing Important?

An increase in population and rural-urban migration contribute to the unplanned global expansion of urban settlements. Urbanization can bring work opportunities, access to health services and better education, but poor communities still face inadequate housing and access to basic services. Therefore, increasing urbanization should focus on how to improve the living conditions of poor urban families. Improved living conditions will not only provide housing, but also improve health, and reduce injuries and premature deaths.

How has the Baan Mankong Program Helped?

The government funds through CODI go toward directly supporting the communities and aiding poverty eradication in Thailand. Through improvements in housing, the environment and other services, the citizens of the poor urban communities control where the money goes. In addition to financial control, people of the communities are able to work closely with local governments, professionals and universities offering multiple opportunities to evaluate housing and ways it can continue to improve. Communities also used the Baan Mankong Program to get drainage systems, communal septic tanks for sanitation, better connections for water and electricity supply and grey-water treatment units.

Its Impact and Growth

The program empowers the communities involved to plan, apply and improve the projects themselves based on the needs of the community. By 2009, the program existed in 260 cities in Thailand with money for 80,000 housing projects receiving approval, and communities implementing 1,033 housing projects that provide decent and secure housing for 104,000 poor families. The program not only helped the regions of Bangkok, but it also reached 320 cities/districts across 72 provinces and helped over 90,000 households with $191 million U.S. dollars. Thailand is one of a couple of countries that established a nation-wide effort to improve poor housing and what makes The Baan Mankong Program stand out is the focus of the community which strengthens the voices of the citizens in poor communities.

Supporting communities in need of quality housing is important to poverty eradication in Thailand and requires attention from the government, members of the low-income community, and members from high-income communities. The success of programs like the Baan Mankong Program not only depends on money but community support encouraging spaces to learn from one another.

– Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

SDG 1 in New Zealand
World leaders adopted the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first of which is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere,” in 2015. In 2019, New Zealand leaders published the findings of the Voluntary National Review as New Zealand’s Progress Towards the SDGs – 2019. Through this report, others can learn the challenges facing the people of New Zealand, the strides the country has made thus far and improvements to come for each SDG, including updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

A key challenge New Zealanders face comes in the form of the inequities that can exist in poverty-related measures. According to New Zealand’s 2018 Census, 16.5% of the population are Māori (indigenous New Zealanders) and 8.1% are Pacific Islanders, who poverty disproportionately affects. Poverty is also worse among those living with disabilities. The updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand to follow, contextualized by the challenges the country faces and the goals for the coming years, yield a broad picture of the nation’s approach to poverty alleviation and successes thus far. Here are seven updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand.

7 Updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand

  1. Child Poverty Reduction and Wellbeing Acts: This legislation requires that the New Zealand government sets targets for three predetermined child poverty measures at both three- and 10-year intervals. The New Zealand government is also responsible for publishing annual reports on those measures as well as relevant indicators. For example, the 2020/21 target for the reduction of material hardship is from 13% to 10% of children, whereas the 2027/28 target stretches that to just 6% of children.
  2. Families Package and Wellbeing Budget: Through changes to tax credits, free school lunches, and more, the Families Package and Wellbeing Budget aimed to boost incomes of 62% of households with children in New Zealand, by 2021. According to a 2020 report, the Families Package had already improved the situation of 18,400 children enough for them to no longer live in poverty.
  3. Increase in the Minimum Wage: One of the clearest cut strategies for alleviating poverty was to increase the country’s minimum wage, with the expectation that the country will continue to increase it as the economy permits. New Zealand applied a 7.2% increase in 2019, followed by a 6.3% boost in 2020.
  4. Establishment of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group: The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has the task of advising the New Zealand government as to how and why the nation’s welfare programs should change in order to provide the most benefit to its people. Just a year after its establishment, WEAG completed a report detailing how the nation’s social security system ought to evolve. The report, Wakamana Tāngata – Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, includes 42 recommendations for the nation to move from simply providing a safety net to restoring dignity to its citizens. WEAG’s approach emphasizes problem-solving through collaboration with researchers and stakeholders across the country.
  5. Public and Affordable Housing Expansion: Not only is work underway to provide additional options for public and affordable housing, but the New Zealand government also aims to improve the conditions for those living in rental housing. Housing costs are of particular importance when considering how to reduce inequities and poverty in general. In fact, data revealed that 14.9% of children lived in poverty in 2019 even beyond taking housing costs into account, whereas that proportion jumped to 20.8% after factoring in housing costs.
  6. Disability Action Planning: With a new Disability Action Plan having taken effect since the publication of the Voluntary National Review, it is pertinent to look at the most recent plan for 2019-2023. Through the detailing of 25 programs with the primary design of narrowing the gap in employment between disabled and non-disabled people, this plan serves to move New Zealand forward in line with the Disability Strategy 2016-2026.
  7. Broader Sample for Household Economic Survey: In the hopes of capturing a holistic picture of the financial situations of all its people, the New Zealand’s Household Economic Survey expanded its sampling to 20,000 people. With this more inclusive understanding of the impact of the economy on individual households, the nation’s leaders hope to be better equipped to address the challenges faced therein. As mentioned above, it is of vital importance that New Zealand not only combat the inequities among its citizens but also accurately measure them.

As with many countries, these updates on SDG 1 in New Zealand serve to share measures of the success achieved thus far, and as motivation to continue this important work. Other nations and leaders can also consider these points inspiration for strategies to combat poverty worldwide.

– Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Housing In IndiaIndia is among the world’s poorest countries, with more than two-thirds of its residents living in extreme poverty. Recently, however, a changing economy centered around industrialization has prompted many rural residents to move to urban areas of the region. The interregional migration has led to an accumulation of slums and poor villages on the outskirts of cities. The problem prompts a powerful need for affordable housing in India. In recent years, new organizations have begun to answer this call with unique responses to alleviate the problem.

3 Ways India is Implementing Affordable Housing

  1. Big bank support for finances: One of the major banks leading this movement, the National Housing Bank of India, extends housing loans to low-income households. This allows for affordable housing at the lowest level while also expanding the Indian housing market. The bank’s project has positively impacted 15,000 households across 17 states in India, including households primarily managed by women. The expanded access to these loans is not the only aspect of this plan. Higher loans are also given out to poorer people to ensure that housing transactions are faster and more effective. These loans also help invest in important infrastructures like schools, temples and communal facilities.
  2. Government home-building initiatives: Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has launched a “housing for all” campaign since his election. The urban focus of the plan pledges to build more than 12 million houses by the year 2022. Although only 3.2 million urban homes have come to fruition so far, more funding to continue the project is on the way. These efforts ensure that 40% of India’s population, now living in urban areas like Mumbai, has access to cheaper apartment buildings. The new housing spaces target a variety of people, including first-time buyers, older individuals and those aspiring to move to urban areas, a demographic that largely includes impoverished communities.
  3. Targeting traditional real estate developers: In addition to building affordable housing, the Indian Government is also taking steps to target real estate members who generally focus their efforts on higher-end living spaces. To combat this practice, the government gives more incentives for interest rates on middle-to-low class homes. Many major real estate companies only switched to marketing affordable housing (as late as 2018) after the introduction of these benefits. This trickle-down effect experienced in the real estate sector will in turn fuel the industry. In other words, it has a multiplied effect on India’s economy. The shift in the country’s housing market will make India a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Affordable Housing Means Less Poverty

The combination of nongovernmental and governmental support in India is rapidly leading to positive changes in the country. The future of affordable housing in the region is on track to provide commodities to millions of people. With increased funding and more initiatives, India is a leading example of how affordable housing can raise standards of living and boost the economy, essentially alleviating poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

Success in Honduras
Despite fast economic growth, the country of Honduras still suffers from high poverty and inequality. According to the World Bank, 48% of people live in poverty in the country, with 38% in urban areas and 60% in rural areas. However, in recent years, the success in Honduras is worthy of noting.

The Situation

Inequality is the highest in the world in Honduras. Inclement weather, such as regular droughts and heavy rain, affects the poor the most. In addition, violence is rampant. In 2018 alone, Honduras had 38 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has worsened Honduras’ economy. Due to the global shutdown, predictions have determined that the gross domestic product of Honduras will decrease by 7% in 2020, because of the sharp decline in trade, investment and consumption. The worsened GDP in the United States, Honduras’s partner in trade, has not helped matters. It will affect all classes, and especially the poor, according to the World Bank.

The Abundant Life Foundation

In response, the World Bank has initiated many U.S.-funded projects to aid the weakened economy with success in Honduras but one organization that has also never stopped giving aid is the Abundant Life Foundation (ALF). This highly successful organization creates opportunities for Hondurans so they can live a better life through long-term community development, education and conservation. Since 2007, the founders of Abundant Life, authors and poverty experts David and Brenda Dachner, have created programs that work closely with island residents to create environments that foster personal and community growth. The Foundation has served the Bay Islands of Honduras with the utmost commitment.

Community Development and Housing

Community Development is one pillar that the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. It has a project that is an affordable housing community called Los Sueños: The Dreams that has seen success in Honduras. At Los Sueños, not only does the Foundation provide dignified housing, but an entire community setting where families can thrive, not just survive. This is the first planned community in Roatán and has a K-12 school, a church, sports court and Ag Farm.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, co-founder Brenda Dachner stated that “2021 will also bring a library and computer center, our new ALF office, and the first public park on the island. Future plans also call for a Cultural Center to preserve the heritage and culture of the English-speaking islanders, and a daycare center so the many single moms who will be living in our community can safely leave their children while they work to take care of their families.”

The Abundant Life Foundation is currently responsible for the building of 24 of 80 homes, with 11 families waiting to move in by Spring 2021. For the selection process, families go through an application process, a debt screening with the bank, a personal interview and home visit and criminal background check, before an anonymous selection committee of reputable islanders with ALF make the final selection through a collective vote.

Bringing Electricity to Honduras

Electricity is also a problem in Honduras. In response, ALF has created other community projects which include the distribution of solar-powered Luci Lights to communities with little to no electricity. This has reduced house fires from those who use candles in their wooden homes. It also helps families save money as electricity is expensive on the island.

Also, a bag program with the community of St. Helene where ALF taught the local women there to crochet purses and other items out of recycled plastic bags. Through this program, 90% of the sale of products went back to the woman, whose product sold while ALF maintained 10% and put it into a community fund. To date, the women have sold over $30,000 of products. With the Fund money, a year ago, the community voted to use it to bring electricity to each home in their village, including their church. “No more dangerous candles at night,” claimed Brenda Dachner, “and no more noisy, expensive diesel generators.”

Providing Support for Students

The second pillar of the Abundant Life Foundation is education. Since the organization’s first days on the island, it has provided scholarships and support to students to pursue a better education, including sponsoring three high school graduates to university programs, two of whom attended in the States. ALF built two schools (K-6 and K-12), provided support to students and teachers and operated a Bilingual Literacy Program in communities across the island to promote English literacy among residents. “It is important to promote and support English on this island as, first of all, it is their native language that is quickly being lost, but also, with tourism as the primary source of income, it is pertinent for jobs and their financial well-being,” Brenda Dachner told The Borgen Project.

Conservation

Finally, Conservation is a pillar the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. Roatán sits amidst the Meso-American reef system, the second largest barrier reef in the world, and is its primary source of income via the tourists that come to see it, and locals living off of fishing for themselves and for trade. It is vital for the long-term financial well-being of local islanders that the reef be healthy and vibrant. Not surprisingly, however, the health of the reef is deteriorating. ALF partners with the Roatán Marine Park and other reputable organizations to promote the protection of the reef around the Bay Islands and seek to educate tourists to eliminate ignorance, and locals to reduce apathy.

ALF operates both as a 501(c)3 in the United States and as a legal NGO in Honduras. As such, although headquartered in Austin, Texas, the Abundant Life Foundation has a local team in Roatán, currently composed completely of native islanders who oversee all its projects and provide input, ideas and suggestions with projects and programming.

“We are very proud of this,” states Brenda Dachner to the Borgen Project, “as it has always been our desire to let Hondurans help Hondurans.”

With a focus on long-term solutions in community development, education and conservation, the Abundant Life Foundation hopes to provide the very opportunities islanders need to create their own abundant lives. This sparkling success in Honduras, like island water, has created rippling effects to end poverty.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in LibyaLibya has been a regular victim of severe flooding for many decades and the problem is only becoming more severe. Heavy rains have caused significant problems, with flooding and landslides in urban and rural areas making day-to-day life infeasible for thousands.

Flooding in Al-Bayda, Libya

On November 6 2020, Al-Bayda, Libya, experienced torrential rains and extreme flooding, resulting in the displacement of thousands. High water levels on public roads have made daily commutes impossible for many. Additionally, the floods have left thousands without electricity and have greatly damaged properties.

The flooding of 2020 is reminiscent of the flooding in the Ghat district in 2019, which affected 20,000 people and displaced 4,500. In June of 2019, flooding devastated areas in south Libya and damaged roads and farmland.  Central infrastructure suffered unrecoverable damages, setting the region back. Areas prone to disaster are significantly limited in their progression and development when devastation is so frequent.

Flooding and Poverty

The pattern of flooding in Libya has consistently contributed to problems of economic decline, poor infrastructure and poverty. As one of the most common natural disasters, flooding impacts impoverished areas more severely because their infrastructure is not built to withstand floods or landslides.

Poor countries take a long time to recover from the impact of flooding because they do not have the resources and money to repair property damage and help people to bounce back from the effects. War-affected countries are even more vulnerable and Libya is such a country affected by war and conflict.

Within the country, a two-day holiday was declared on November 9 and 10 of 2020 due to the extreme flooding and $7 million has been allocated to address damages in Al-Bayda municipality.  Since the flooding, there has been little recognition and support from the international community.

Humanitarian Aid

A humanitarian aid team from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO) assembled to provide aid to support the city of Al-Bayda and other cities vulnerable to flooding in Libya. The team worked to gather information and identify what resources are most needed to help families get back on their feet and be better prepared for future severe flooding and weather. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and teams started using satellite imaging and other data-collecting resources to help assess and plan for resource distribution.

The Need for Foreign Aid in Libya

In response to Libya’s chronic vulnerability to severe flooding, in 2019, the U.S. Government provided nearly $31.3 million to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Libya. Since the floods are ongoing, ongoing assistance is needed. Proactive and preventative measures need to be implemented in response to the devastating pattern of flooding in Libya. These are expensive investments, however, and Libya cannot implement these preventative measures alone. Help from the international community is crucial in order to create a more resilient country.

– Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has a population of about 10 million people. About 11,000 of these people experience homelessness. However, due to a lack of data collection, this number is inaccurate. According to the Expert Group, which the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs created, around 100,000 people were homeless or at risk of homelessness as of 2017. The government has stepped in to help prevent homelessness, but the current policies in place are not sufficient to reduce homelessness in the Czech Republic.

Current Policies and Issues

Policies are in place to prevent individuals and families from losing their homes. An act on assistance in material need came into effect in 2007. This act regulates how the government provides assistance and assures basic living conditions to people in homeless situations. Additionally, the system serves as motivation to active effort for ensuring a means to meet basic necessities in life and to prevent social exclusion.

According to the act, municipal authorities are responsible for providing benefits in a few ways. One way is an allowance of living. This covers cases of material need that tackles the insufficient income of a person or family. Furthermore, beneficiaries have an entitlement to an allowance of living if the person or family’s income is less than the amount of living after the deduction of reasonable housing costs.

A second way is the supplement of housing. This tackles cases where the income of the person or family including the allowance is insufficient in covering housing costs. A third way is extraordinary immediate assistance. This goes to low-income persons who find themselves in situations that require immediate solutions. These situations might include a serious threat to health, natural disasters, not having enough resources to cover essential expenditures, not having enough resources to cover basic necessities for dependent children and persons at risk of social exclusion. The act helped about 1.2 million people receive benefits in its first year of implementation.

Services for the Homeless

There are services available to help people manage homelessness. These services include hostels, day centers, halfway houses and outreach programs. Day centers offer people emergency assistance, meals and facilities for personal hygiene. Moreover, they distribute clothes and organize cultural and educational programs. However, hostels have proven to be a problem. Owners of hostels have taken advantage of people by up charging their services. Furthermore, the conditions are also substandard and unsanitary.

Additionally, homelessness in the Czech Republic faces a lack of funding for services. Regional and national authorities co-manage the current system of annual calls for proposals. This means that homeless people are reliant on unstable funding sources. As a result, facilities have shut down over time due to the lack of funding.

How the Czech Republic Plans to Tackle Homelessness

The government plans to tackle homelessness with four sets of goals in 2020. The first set of goals involves access to housing. This includes the standardization of state support for public housing and creating a functioning system of homelessness prevention. The functioning system supports formerly homeless people who obtained housing so they do not lose their homes again.

Furthermore, it supports the implementation of tools to enable the transition of people from being homeless to entering housing. It is also working toward more effective use of the existing instruments of the system’s benefits, the reinforcement of the coordinating and planning role of municipalities within extended powers in relation to people in an adverse housing situation and the creation of supporting instruments for implementing those roles.

The second goal has to do with social services. Social services will better respond to the needs of homeless people and people at risk of losing their house in adverse social situations. The third set of goals relates to access to healthcare. This plan is to increase accessibility, create possibilities and focus on prevention with comprehensive healthcare for homeless people. Additionally, this goal also includes raising awareness to the general public, healthcare workers and social service workers to de-stigmatize homeless people.

The final set of goals involves awareness, involvement and cooperation. This plan is to create a network for retrieving information that is concentrated in municipalities. It has extended powers focused on homelessness among relevant stakeholders working with homeless people. This will fulfill conditions for statistics, records, communication, mobility of homeless people and the use of social services. In addition, the plan is to create an effective system of primary prevention through training, education and awareness-raising.

How NGOs Have Helped the Homeless

Homeless people in the Czech Republic often rely on NGOs for assistance. IQ Roma Servis is an NGO that implemented a project called the Housing First concept that provided housing for more than 400 families in the Czech Republic in 2016. The project had a municipality in Brno provide flats to families who previously lived in a form of a homeless shelter. Moreover, families also received intensive case management and a substantial housing subsidy.

A study occurred to understand the effects of this project. As a result, the study found a decrease in the time families spent homeless and found an improvement in housing security. Other positive outcomes include an improvement in the mental health of mothers, decreased use of emergency health services, decreased sickness in children, better social integration of the parents, improved financial security in households, decreased feelings of social anomaly and improvement in overall quality of life.

The government has a long way to go to prevent homelessness in the Czech Republic. If the government provides additional support and organizations to help the homeless population, it should be able to provide aid to more than 100,000 citizens who are at risk.

– Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Sub-Saharan African SlumsSub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a housing crisis. While around one billion people live in slums around the globe, 200 million of those live in sub-Saharan African slums. This number represents “61.7% of the region’s urban population,” making sub-Saharan Africa the highest in the world for urban poverty.

Sub-Saharan African Slums and Urban Poverty

Singumbe Muyeba, assistant professor of African Studies at the University of Denver, spoke with The Borgen Project about development intervention and sub-Saharan African slums. Muyeba’s expertise in these areas stems from his academic work but also from his work for the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees and Development Program.

According to Muyeba, sub-Saharan African slums began when African countries gained independence from colonialist rule from the 1960s through the ‘80s. Since colonialists always reserved major cities for themselves, Africans everywhere migrated from rural to urban areas after independence. However, that meant infant governments had to keep up with increasing urban populations. They were unable to do so due to the skyrocketing rates of urbanization.

With housing rapidly diminishing as Africans moved into cities, they began settling onto common land, eventually creating the sprawling slums that still exist today. Even now, the sub-Saharan African urban population is annually growing at 4%. A projection from the U.N. reveals that “the world’s 10 fastest growing cities, between 2018 and 2035, will all be in Africa.” In addition, there is a backlog of 51 million housing units in Africa. The region’s supply of housing is “about nine years behind current demand,” according to Muyeba.

Slum Upgrading Programs

The World Bank has funded slum upgrading programs to combat rising urban poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. These programs assigned property rights and provided access to services in hopes to empower slum residents with their own land. However, as Muyeba explained, these programs were largely “self-help” models. The World Bank simply gave impoverished individuals property rights and no means to build their own housing.

Since “about 97% to 99% of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to formal financing” that allows them to build or buy a home, people haphazardly build their own informal housing or remain in slums. Formal and sustainable housing only accounts for 10% of all urban African housing. While handing out free titles and property rights looks good on paper, this “slum upgrading” has not improved slums.

Ongoing Problems in Slums

While sub-Saharan Africa housing conditions improved by 11% from 2000-2015,  this improvement was “twice as likely in the wealthiest households” and “80% more likely among more educated households.” The reality is that 80-90% of Africans work in the informal sector, and the majority of people living in sub-Saharan African cities live in slums. Therefore, this housing improvement did not occur in the slums, which many people cannot escape.

George Compound, a slum in Lusaka, Zambia, serves as a perfect example of a poorly executed upgrade program. It is a major slum with 400,000 inhabitants, but it does not have adequate running water. The water it does have from makeshift wells is contaminated with nearby ground toilets.

In Muyeba’s opinion, government involvement is necessary to fix the African housing crisis. While he is not against privatization, he believes the neoliberal model is not working to improve sub-Saharan African slums.

Can Governments Fix the Housing Crisis?

However, even if African governments want to get involved in building housing, they cannot. This is because of the World Bank’s international economic rulings on aid and upgrade programs. “The system is set up in such a way that the World Bank advocates for less involvement of the government following the Structural Adjustment Programs implemented in the 80s and 90s,” stated Muyeba.

In order to receive aid through the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs, governments often have to delegate building to the private sector. However, the private sector cannot make a real profit from low-income housing because so many Africans and slum-dwellers are part of the informal sector. People in poverty cannot get mortgages because they lack access to credit or insurance. This prevents the private sector from serving poor Africans.

Muyeba firmly believes “there are wins everywhere” if governments (with the help of communities and the private sector) build housing. The construction sector can benefit from large-scale projects, while infrastructure creates jobs. Individuals in slums can focus their attention on making income rather than worrying about basic housing needs.

Muyeba offered Kenya as an example of combined state, private and community partnerships to combat urban poverty. Currently, the country has implemented its own kind of slum upgrading program in which the government builds housing and guarantees mortgages.

Organizations Helping People in Sub-Saharan African Slums

Outside organizations and NGOs are actively working to help housing poverty in sub-Saharan African slums. Habitat for Humanity completed a six-year program in 2018 called “Building Assets, Unlocking Access.” This program worked in Uganda and Kenya to offer technical help and “develop housing microfinance products and services.” Habitat for Humanity’s approach allowed Africans to progressively build their own housing, access small-scale loans and set up small payments.

More than 42,000 individuals accessed microfinance loans through the program, which impacted more than 210,000 people in total. In addition, 32.9% of loan recipients built entire houses for themselves and their families.

A report from the project found that recipients also upgraded their housing with improved roofing, walls, sanitation and electricity. Additionally, the program caused trickle-down effects in health. Fewer people reported common ailments like “sore throats, shortness of breath, itchy eyes, blocked noses, vomiting and rashes” due to healthier housing. The most improved group was children under six.

Hopefully, all African cities struggling with urban poverty can create domestic housing projects or find new, inventive ways to help the housing crisis. All in all, the solution to sub-Saharan African slums is housing. According to Muyeba, “It’s a no brainer.”

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr