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Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the southernmost island in the Caribbean. The country has a population of approximately 1.39 million people, with 20% of those people living below the poverty line. As a result, homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago is a common reality for many citizens. Homelessness does not only impact those who experience it directly, but it also harms the surrounding community and the overall Trinidadian economy.

The Effects of Homelessness and Poverty

According to Newsday, there are approximately 414 homeless people living on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago. Behavioral health disorders, rising numbers of victims of assault and acute and chronic physical conditions are just some of the effects of homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago. Crimes against the homeless has risen drastically in the country. There has been a total of 1,437 assault cases against homeless individuals alone. With an unemployment rate of 4.9%, and rising drastically, conditions are made worse as more citizens fall below the poverty line and into homelessness. 

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted economies worldwide, and Trinidad and Tobago is no exception. The pandemic has increased the number of vulnerable individuals and the percentage of people living in homelessness in the country. As a tourism-dependent country, the pandemic caused the closure of most touristic attractions, thus decreasing the amount of money going into Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, many people were laid off and fell below the minimum wage line.

The Good News

Despite the increasing numbers of people on the streets, many organizations have come together to help the homeless in Trinidad and Tobago. With the help of The Social Development Ministry, the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has worked rigorously to build temporary housing for the homeless. The facility aforementioned began construction in April of 2020 and provides homeless individuals with roofs over their heads, cots to sleep on, clean bathrooms and meals three times a day. To ensure the safety and health of those staying there, social distancing has been enforced and The Public Health Department has conducted inspections.

By raising funds to provide housing for those less fortunate, Habitat for Humanity has also made a positive impact in the country. The organization builds safe and clean habitats for those in need in Trinidad and Tobago. The non-profit began building in 1997 and has served more than 700 people since.

Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago affects many people, especially during a time when homeless rates are rising drastically as more people lose their jobs. Assistance provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has helped decrease the number of people living on the street. As more shelters open, more homeless individuals begin receiving the help they need.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr 

CARES Act
On March 27, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) into law, which authorized more than $2 trillion to combat COVID-19 and its various economic and health effects. Of that amount, over $1 billion was allotted to the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Here are some of the specifics:

  • The Department of State received $678 million. The State Department has been working to prevent the global spread of COVID-19, to stabilize the economies and to ensure the security of other countries. The State Department has also funded and worked closely with numerous international NGOs, including UNICEF and the World Food Program, to help those across the world in need of supplies and medical assistance.

  • Of that $678 million, $350 million was allotted specifically for migration and refugee assistance. Under the CARES Act, the State Department is tasked with working closely with NGOs like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross to prepare and respond to any outbreaks of COVID-19 among refugee populations.

  • USAID, specifically its International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account, received $258 million. Independent of the federal government, USAID is one of the largest aid agencies in the world. Here is how USAID and its IDA works to help the world’s poor.

How USAID Helps the World’s Poor

The IDA works to provide humanitarian assistance to people in other nations affected by natural disasters and emergencies. It provides basic necessities and resources like food, water, shelter and health care. The IDA also ensures that refugees and people fleeing conflict are able to receive humanitarian aid wherever they are.

More generally, USAID works to promote development in other countries across the globe. This development could be a reduction in poverty through humanitarian assistance. It could also come in the form of political change to ensure stability and economic prosperity, as USAID works to promote democracy.

The $258 million it received through the CARES Act will go directly towards providing other nations with medical and essential aid. The funding will benefit frontline workers in other countries and provide them with the medical tools and resources necessary to treat patients. Funding will also go towards providing those in need with food, shelter, water and other necessary supplies.

The world’s poor have been severely affected by COVID-19 and its economic and social implications. Millions have lost their jobs, and millions more have lost their homes due to their inability to pay rent, such as migrant workers living in India. USAID will provide direct relief to the poor and help them recover physically and financially.

How Foreign Aid Helps the U.S.

Providing foreign aid to countries around the world benefits the U.S. in numerous ways. First, foreign aid ensures national security. USAID works with other governments to create political, social and economic stability by promoting a more democratic political system and lifting people out of poverty. Stability in other nations is critical to U.S. national security.

Foreign aid can also strengthen the market for American-made goods. When people are lifted out of poverty and have the financial ability to purchase goods, there will be an increased demand for goods in general. American businesses and the economy will benefit, as U.S. trade constitutes significant portions of trade in numerous countries around the world. Promoting a stable economy with able buyers is critical to maintaining and increasing the strength of the U.S. economy.

The CARES Act could potentially save lives worldwide through direct medical aid and humanitarian assistance. USAID is working to equip medical workers around the world with the proper equipment and resources necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19. The CARES Act also provides funding to directly assist refugee populations without legal status in their current home. The U.S. aims to be a leader in solving this global crisis and the CARES Act could be a significant step in the right direction.

– Harry Yeung
Photo: Flickr