A leading cause of homelessness in Samoa is its vulnerability to natural disasters and deadly cyclones. These natural disasters wipe out many families’ homes, businesses and churches, consequently leaving them homeless. The rural communities face the bulk of the homelessness problem due to a lack of access to clean water, land to grow crops and job opportunities. Around 18.8% of Samoa’s population lives below the national poverty line and most of that group lives in rural communities where there is a lack of jobs. Instead, the villagers rely heavily on their land for survival.
5 Facts About Homelessness in Samoa
- Homelessness in Samoa is partially due to the fact that many people do not have access to agriculture. This is because natural disasters can cause devastating land destruction. The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $20 million grant to the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project to help aid those in Samoa who suffer in the aftermath of natural disasters. The goal of this initiative is to rehabilitate communities and improve the construction of infrastructure in order to become more stable during natural disasters. Further, this collaboration will also seek to increase food productivity, nutrition and more consistent incomes for the Samoan people.
- Samoa is in close contact with countries that have a high income in labor markets, through permanent and temporary migration. Migration offers higher paying job opportunities which raise the amount of income in Samoan households. This, in turn, reduces the chances of homelessness in Samoa.
- Violence is prevalent in Samoan families and results in Samoa having one of the highest rates of family and sexual assaults in the world. In 2018, it became the first country in the Pacific Region to perform a National Public Inquiry into family violence — which unveiled that there is an “epidemic” of violence and sexual abuse. According to the report, 90% of respondents indicated some form of violence frequently transpiring at home. Nearly 60% of women experienced sexual abuse from a partner, 20% of women reported being raped and nearly 10% of women experienced incest. The high rate of family and sexual abuse is a determining factor for young girls in Samoa in running away from home — which in turn leads to homelessness.
- Many of the people in Samoa rely on agriculture as their main source of income. However, the catastrophe of natural disasters frequently destroys lands, which in turn takes away these Samoans’ means of survival. As of 2019, the unemployment rate in Samoa was 8.36%. The unemployment rate will only rise higher due to natural disasters’ effect on the land and the reduction in manufacturing work. These factors all contribute to the problem of homelessness in Samoa.
- One cause of homelessness is mental illness. According to the results from 2017 mental health data, 16.4% of homeless people in Samoa suffer from mental illness. Projects for Assistance in Transition for Homelessness (PATH) is an outreach program accessible in Samoa that offers help in many ways. Examples are diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation and referrals to primary health care providers for those experiencing mental illness.
An NGO Making a Difference
Although Samoa faces adversities such as poverty which leads to homelessness — no reliable statistics show exactly how many people are homeless in Samoa. Luckily, many people tend to have continuous access to the sea for fish and land to grow crops, which is how they can make an income. With the intent of creating a more secure economy and land for the people of Samoa, the nongovernmental organization Civil Society Support Program (CSSP) is currently working to reduce homelessness. The program emerged because of the recognition that through effective and sustainable Civil Society programs, the quality of life for the people of Samoa can improve. The program’s goal is to provide support within Civil Society groups that will improve their communities and provide more promising economic opportunities.
– Montana Moore