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Homelessness in ParaguayParaguay has undoubtedly experienced economic growth in the 21st century, resulting in an average GDP increase of 4% in recent years. Living conditions have generally improved in the past two decades, with a rising middle class and enhanced means of access to safe drinking water, especially within historically marginalized rural areas. Nevertheless, poverty and income inequality have remained serious obstacles to welfare in Paraguay, as made evident by a consistently high GINI coefficient above 45 and a deep rural-urban economic gap. Although the country has seen undeniable economic growth, homelessness in Paraguay remains a problem.

While it is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a GDP decline of 1.2% in 2020, Paraguay is expected to shortly return to its pattern of economic growth. This is particularly given to the country’s low case and death rates compared to fellow Latin American countries. Even so, the national poverty rate is expected to worsen due to the country’s vulnerability to the global economy and to the COVID-19 induced recession. A poverty rate exceeding 24% will exacerbate housing insecurity and homelessness in Paraguay.

Homelessness in Paraguay

A concrete estimate of Paraguay’s homeless population does not exist due to factors ranging from the individuals’ mobility to simply the lack of research efforts conducted to establish this figure. However, the Inter-American Development Bank approximates that 43% of Paraguayan families live in inadequate housing. While many of these families may own a physical home, these spaces often lack proper sanitary conditions, access to technology and space.

Flooding has been a major issue over the past decade resulting in the displacement of tens of thousands, particularly affecting impoverished citizens living by the Paraguay River near the national capital, Asunción. In 2015 alone, 50,000 Paraguayans were dislocated from their homes as a result of a disastrous flood. The inadequate assistance from the government has resulted in large protests stemming from affected populations. Housing insecurity, as a consequence of floods and various land ownership issues, has resulted in protestors occupating Asunción’s main square to demand that the government address Paraguay’s housing crisis.

The government’s corruption has indeed resulted in the removal of vulnerable families from their homes. Moreover, according to Habitat For Humanity, 1.1 million houses are needed in Paraguay to harbor those who flood into cities from rural regions— an estimate which only continues to rise. Low-income Paraguayans are desperate for improved housing security.

Civil Society Projects Addressing Paraguay’s Housing Insecurity

Due to the lack of action by state actors, various NGOs and grassroots organizations have taken it upon themselves to address homelessness in Paraguay and the country’s root causes of poverty. Here are just a few of the efforts being done to confront the crisis.

Habitat for Humanity has constructed and repaired homes for low-income families at low and affordable rates. Offering this assistance has helped address the issue of a lack of and/or unsafe housing in urban areas. Such initiative has provided homes for over 4,500 families over the past 22 years.

Fundación Paraguay is an enterprise partnered with the Homeless World Cup that incentivizes schooling as well as provides assistance to schools with predominantly low-income student populations. The organization’s entrepreneurial education program has helped over 100,000 marginalized children and women, providing them with a knowledge base critical for their own socio-economic growth and housing security.

Conclusion

Unsafe housing and homelessness remain a major problem in Paraguay as a result of natural disasters, increasing urbanization, corruption and exacerbated poverty due to COVID-19. Non-state actors have played a major role in providing technical support and housing aid to marginalized populations. However, building improved government response to floodings and overpopulation is imperative for improved living conditions.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

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 

Homelessness in CambodiaCambodia is a developing country in Southeast Asia. With a population of more than 16 million, more than one-fourth of the country lives in poverty. Many live just above the poverty line of $1.25 per day and at least 10 million Cambodians are in need of decent housing. Here are four facts about housing and homelessness in Cambodia.

4 Facts About Housing and Homelessness in Cambodia

  1. As aforementioned, 10 million Cambodians lack adequate housing. Additionally, about two million houses need necessary improvement to meet the minimum quality standards.
  2. Cambodia has a large urban population. Around 21.2% of Cambodians live in cities. In the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, one in five people live in the slums and lack access to basic services, according to Habitat for Humanity.
  3. About 80% of Cambodia’s population lives in rural housing. Traditional Khmer rural homes are wooden and built on large stilts raised above the ground. This way, the water from the monsoons that frequent the country does not reach and damage the main part of the houses.
  4. A survey by the Cambodian National Institute of Statistics, Columbia University in New York and Friends International cited in a 2017 VOA News story found that in Cambodia’s seven biggest urban centers about 2,700 young people were homeless with the numbers climbing as a result of “higher unemployment and migration to the cities from rural [areas].”

Habitat for Humanity

Since 2003, Habitat for Humanity has been working in Cambodia to “break the cycle of poverty through safe, durable, affordable housing solutions.” To date, Habitat Cambodia has helped provide more than 22,000 families with shelter. The organization works with both international and local NGOs, local and national authorities and other groups to tackle the homelessness situation in Cambodia.

The organization’s innovative approach includes market development, advocacy for secure land tenure and collaborating with other NGOs and community-based organizations in order to create housing solutions for the poor in Cambodia. Habitat for Humanity has also been working in three of Cambodia’s biggest cities — Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang — to provide housing solutions and help secure land for the homeless and other in-need groups including those living with disabilities, orphans and those affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2018, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported that these efforts reached 73,000 children and adults.

In 2014, Cambodia adopted a National Housing Policy to improve access to housing. However, according to Habitat for Humanity, this policy has not yet reached low-income and middle-income families. To combat this, Habitat Cambodia is advocating for “effective implementation of the National Housing Policy” in order to provide access to housing for the growing number of Cambodians in urban areas.

 Though housing shortages and homelessness in Cambodia are still serious and ongoing issues, organizations like Habitat for Humanity are helping combat the issue — one habitat at a time.

– Emma Benson
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in El Salvador
El Salvador is the smallest country located in the Southern part of Central America. With a population of almost 6.5 million people, the country has the largest population density for its size in the region. The country is famous for its exports, primarily coffee and sugar, which are ideal crops for a tropical climate. The gorgeous weather also makes it an alluring vacation spot and draws tourists seeking sweeping palm trees, breathtaking views and glistening beaches from across the globe. However, just outside the paradise of the resorts is a much different world. Here are five facts about poverty in El Salvador.

5 Facts About Poverty in El Salvador

  1. The poverty rate was improving. From 2007 to 2019, El Salvador experienced some economic progress, with its poverty rate dropping from 39% to 22.3%. However, it will be a challenge for the country to maintain those numbers considering how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the economy and the exports the country relies on.
  2. The impoverished often live in overcrowded areas. Poorer neighborhoods, referred to as slums, tend to be located in undesirable areas that have a landscape more susceptible to danger. Many families live in small, overcrowded quarters, which can pose a major public health risk. Houses are usually built very close to each other and are sometimes adjoined in order to share materials. For many, the only choice for housing is makeshift structures that do not protect from the elements and cannot withstand the force of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or even heavy rainfall. These communities often lack basic services such as electricity, plumbing and sanitation sewer plants. This makes for unsanitary conditions and very limited access to clean water.
  3.  Schools often have a lot of empty desks. The country struggles to maintain a sufficient education system, which one can largely attribute to a high rate of dropouts. Of all the children nationwide, around 34% do not attend the elementary grade levels. Furthermore, more than 60% of children do not finish high school. As a result, around 20% of the population above the age of 10 are illiterate. The education deficit perpetuates the cycle of unskilled laborers joining the workforce as minors, which hinders the economy’s growth.
  4. Good job opportunities are not widely available. Much of the country’s poor population work in the manufacturing, agriculture and tourism industries. These jobs traditionally do not pay a living wage, have unsafe conditions and require long hours due to flimsy work laws and standards that are relatively unregulated by the government. Child labor is prevalent within poorer communities, with a staggering 1.8 million children currently employed. The lack of a welfare program and the government’s failure to enforce child labor laws enable this practice. For many families living below the poverty line, this is the only way they can afford to get by.
  5.  Violence and crime plague communities. El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates worldwide, directly endangering many of its citizens. Most of the crime committed is gang-related and, with the involvement of an estimated 60,000 members, gangs run rampant in practically every community. Feeling they have no other option than to flee, those vulnerable to gang activity migrate to other countries in order to find refuge and employment in a safer area. One of the gangs’ main targets is business owners, as they look to get a cut of their revenue. The loss of income severely impacts job creation and business survival.

Looking Ahead

These five facts about poverty in El Salvador are grim, but also solvable. Fortunately, Habitat for Humanity, an organization that strives to improve living conditions for the impoverished, has committed to helping. The organization has built homes for around 25,000 Salvadorans. To support the community, the volunteers also build public structures such as new schools, health centers, business suites and much more. In addition, the volunteers teach citizens job skills, money management and disaster preparation in order to give them the tools needed to thrive. With continued relief efforts by humanitarian organizations, a better future can emerge for current generations and generations to come.

 Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

Four Organizations Building Homes Abroad
One of the most sizable problems surrounding poverty in vulnerable countries is the lack of clean, sustainable and sturdy homes. When communities are provided with little to no housing, it can cause an abundance of other problems such as unsanitary facilities, streets and a lack of clean water. However, there are different organizations actively combating this problem by volunteering their time and effort to building homes abroad.

All Out Africa

All Out Africa is a volunteer organization that exclusively concentrates on African countries, such as Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and Zimbabwe. In Swaziland, All Out Africa’s main focus is structural building through the Build a Future Project.

This program employs the use of local goods and methods such as mud bricks to aid in building different infrastructure, homes and water systems for orphaned and vulnerable children. All Out Africa changes lives through their volunteer programs and allows those looking for opportunities to gain hands-on experience in building homes abroad.

Build Abroad

Build Abroad was founded by two architects, Pat McLoughlin and Chad Johnson. Build Abroad’s first trip was to Costa Rica, where they refurbished a women’s shelter and made easily accessible handicap ramps. As Build Abroad has branched out, it now takes volunteers to travel to Costa Rica, Haiti, Guatemala, Nepal and Peru.

In Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru, their main focus is on community renovation. In Haiti, Build Abroad concentrates on building affordable homes for low-income families in the Pignon community. Build Abroad’s Haiti program allows volunteers to build full, sustainable homes in just one week.

The volunteers and builders learn how to build a foundation, install windows and construct a roof, along with paint and trim. Most of these homes are built for farmers who already own land, but need extra help in building lasting homes.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is one of the most well-known organizations that builds homes for those who are struggling or in difficult situations, such as homelessness and poverty. But what many don’t know is that Habitat for Humanity works in many underdeveloped countries as well.

The organization’s humanitarian work ranges from countries such as Brazil and Columbia, all the way to the Philippines, India, China, Australia and New Zealand; Habitat for Humanity is truly a global organization.

The Habitat for Humanity Thrivent Builds Worldwide program concentrates on helping women and children in building clean, structurally sound homes, anywhere from Africa to Hawaii. Most of their work building homes abroad, however, is done through their Global Village program.

In this program, volunteers can choose to build as many homes as they like, as well as advocate for policy change, energy efficient projects and populations such as children, women and the disabled. Habitat for Humanity not only concentrates on building homes abroad, but it also contributes disaster relief, shelters and community rehabilitation through the Disaster Response project. 

Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad is a volunteer program that provides scholarships, university credit and internships in major fields such as journalism, medicine and healthcare and International Development to those who wish to volunteer in building homes abroad. This group focuses on building homes in countries such as Ghana, Jamaica, the Philippines, Senegal and Tanzania.

Projects Abroad teaches its volunteers how to build bricks from mud and water for assembling quality homes and classrooms; how to fix and rebuild toilet facilities and homes for school children or those who have faced disaster; and how to create sanitation facilities for households, infrastructure and construction.

Brick By Brick

By building clean, safe and sustainable homes, these organizations aid in creating a better way of life for victims of poverty, helping areas recover from natural disasters and supporting those who feel defenseless and stuck in their situations.

Volunteer travel programs and disaster relief give hope, and volunteers building homes abroad are providing a wonderful global service.

– Rebecca Lee
Photo: Flickr