5 Facts About Homelessness in Turkey
Similarly to the rest of the developed world, there are several factors that contribute to homelessness in Turkey. These factors include price inflation, unemployment, limited housing, unsafe home-life, mental illness, addiction, migration and undocumented citizen status. While many statistics remain unknown, here are five facts about homelessness in Turkey that are staggering.
5 Facts about Homelessness in Turkey
- The total number of homeless is unknown: Since it is not considered a social issue by much of the population, there are fewer social services and limited resources allocated for the homeless. This directly impacts the current problem by hindering accurate record-keeping and regular head counts. According to government guidelines, when a citizen becomes homeless, they are supposed to register as such at the appropriate office. However, the submission rate of their paperwork is very low. Despite the lack of data, the roughly estimated number of homeless people is more than 150,000.
- Economic crisis: In 2019, Turkey fell into another recession due to strained relations and disputes with other countries, including the United States. Currently, the unemployment rate is more than 13%. The economic state has a devastating effect on the nation’s unemployment rate and financial fluidity, which contribute directly to rising homelessness numbers. Turkish leaders have been drafting plans to climb out of their recession. However, the COVID-19 pandemic will not only delay their efforts but perhaps call for a complete revision of the plans.
- The streets of Istanbul are highly dangerous for the homeless: The majority of the homeless population is found in urban areas, with a high population density residing in Istanbul. Within the city limits, many homeless lack any type of shelter and are forced to fend for themselves on the streets. They claim people riddle the streets with crime and conflict, making them fear sleeping during the night or even daytime. As a result, they lose essential sleep because sleep requires that they let their guard down, which can be a grave mistake. Homeless people spend most of their time defending what little they have from thieves as well as keeping themselves safe from bodily harm.
- Exposure to the elements: Turkey is known for its harsh weather conditions and frequent natural disasters. In the winter, officials make mass housing efforts when the temperatures become unsurvivable, but they can rarely harbor everyone. The shelter conditions usually involve tight living quarters, and there is no security keeping guard over the occupants. When a natural disaster strikes, such as a flood or earthquake, the homeless have nowhere to seek shelter for protection or necessities such as food and clean water. The disasters can lead to property loss, bodily harm or even death. Preparation for a natural disaster is nearly impossible due to limited access to new reports and weather warnings.
- Government intervention is underwhelming: In the past, the government has been criticized for neglecting to respond and take appropriate action to relieve the persistent homelessness problem. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Turkish government launched emergency efforts in a campaign called the Accommodation for the Homeless Project. It aims to provide temporary housing for the homeless to limit the spread of disease. This project is important because an assumed 20% of Turkey’s homeless population has a pre-existing lung condition, an illness that puts them at a significantly higher risk of developing a life-threatening complication from the disease.
Compelled by the startling facts of homelessness in Turkey, one organization has channeled its faith into compassion to break through the social stigma surrounding the homeless and help. Since 2017, The Good Deeds Association has helped the homeless with their personal needs by donating clothes, providing showers, making laundry available and even giving haircuts. They believe their efforts will not only make a difference in their quality of health but also help them in pursuits to better their life, such as successfully finding a job. They hope to inspire people through their actions to get involved and do their part for their community as well.
– Samantha Decker