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.


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

Soccer and Poverty
Nelson Mandela once said, “sport has the power to change the world.” If that’s true, the four billion soccer fans around the globe today hold the greatest amount of power. Soccer enjoys a popularity level almost double that of the next most popular sport.

Inherent in that popularity is a responsibility to give back, to use that influence to impact some of those who hold the sport in the highest esteem — the world’s poor. In truth, soccer and poverty often exist together, but poverty is the unwanted relative that has overstayed its welcome.

Soccer’s Best Pitch

Soccer and poverty may meet on level ground, but some organizations dig their cleats into the earth, and find traction against a familiar foe. Franco Silva — who created the organization Kizazi which fights poverty at its root through micro loans furnished through the purchase of soccer balls — understands that soccer not only unites, but for many, forms identity.

“When people are young, we tend to tie our identities—who we are—to what we do, to what we’re good at. We define ourselves with external things,” he said.

What happens when those external things cease to be? For many people living in developing countries, especially youth who have difficulty finding jobs, the ennui of the day-to-day necessitates a healthy outlet.

A Healthy Outlet

In Tanzania, that outlet is a football (soccer) program called Lengo, which provides player sponsorship and positive role models that ensure continuation of education and enough capital for families to start small businesses; in other words, a positive step in breaking the cycle of poverty.

In Uganda, the nonprofit Soccer Impact Uganda focuses on the development needs of impoverished communities. What starts as an activity that brings communities together soon snowballs into long-term projects like:

  • installing reserve water systems
  • finding alternative sources of energy
  • providing medical care
  • delivering textbooks and other educational materials, and
  • helping with construction and renovation projects.

Halfway around the world from Uganda, the Mexican Soccer Federation launched the “11 Plays for Health” to promote healthy habits in vulnerable communities based on a similarly named strategy that parts of Africa have already successfully implemented.

The power of soccer has extended to the revolutionary in places like Cairo, Egypt, where the cheers of a football tournament can drown out the angry noise of violent political protests.

In fact, soccer and poverty go so hand-in-hand that an actual tournament exists called the Homeless World Cup. The foundation was created in 2003 and now hosts teams from over 75 countries, all of whose citizens have faced homelessness and social marginalization in one form or another.

Other Sports that have Joined the Fight

At the very least, sports initiatives are doing their part to oust poverty. From Nairobi, Kenya, where youth meet weekly to do yoga, to Jakarta, Indonesia, where a badminton tournament strives to instill leadership skills and confidence in a nation’s youth, a war has been waged between sports and poverty.

At the heart of this war, grass roots initiatives and innovation take command. Soccer and poverty both cling to desperation, but a new front line stands ready to strike.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

Homeless world cupIn 2001, Mel Young created the Homeless World Cup as a way to celebrate individuals from around the globe who have overcome poverty. Young has dedicated his life to fighting homelessness in his homeland of Scotland and the world beyond.

He summarizes his goals for the event: “…we hope to educate the public on the homelessness crisis, with the aim of increasing funding, volunteering, optimism and gestures of goodwill- creating impact and big change”.

The Homeless World Cup is comprised of both men’s and women’s amateur teams from around the world. Unlike the FIFA World Cup, the Homeless World Cup is based on Street Soccer, which uses fewer players and shorter time periods.

The organization covers food and accommodation costs for the players, so even after teams are knocked out of the tournament they are still welcome to spectate and enjoy the rest of the event.

For many players, the Homeless World Cup serves as an escape from the struggles of everyday life as well as a chance to travel to another part of the world. Young believes players are empowered by the dedication, responsibility, and teamwork involved in the game. He also believes that playing sports is a great way to improve both physical and mental health.

The event also works to combat the uncomfortable divide that often separate the homeless and non-homeless communities. By making homeless individuals the stars of the event, typically negative stereotypes surrounding homelessness may shift into a more positive light.

Aside from honing their football skills, players gain valuable skills which can be applied to life outside of the game. The Homelessness World Cup has helped past players overcome addiction, boost self-esteem, and improve their resumes.

Homeless World Cup participants typically retire from football after the Cup, as individuals are only permitted to play once. The hope is that players will have jobs and homes lined up after the event and will no longer be considered homeless. The Homeless World Cup is meant to be a celebration for those who have overcome obstacles and hardships and are ready to enter a new chapter in their lives.

In the words of The Huffington Post’s Kim Samuels, “we have a long way to go to conquer homelessness and the isolation that so often accompanies it. But every goal at the Homeless World Cup brings us a little closer to achieving that larger goal of ending homelessness and fostering inclusion”.

The 2016 Homeless World Cup will be held in Glasgow on July 10–16.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: BBC

Mel Young and Harald Schmied, from Scotland and Austria, respectively, created the Homeless World Cup in 2001 after visiting Cape Town, South Africa for a homelessness conference.

In 2003, Young and Schmied had organized their first Homeless World Cup tournament, which was played in Graz, Austria; to them football (or soccer) is not only a sport, but also a way to “change the lives of homeless people.”

They understand the effects of homelessness, which can make homeless people feel alone and unable to voice their thoughts, causing their lives to be constant chaos.

Football is a release from their usual lifestyle, creates a safe space to build trusting relationships and enables them to be a part of something fun.

By being able to trust others and build skills, the homeless will be able to succeed and learn that they can also apply these lessons to their everyday life and thus change the path they are on.

The ambition of the Cup is to use football as a catalyst to make positive changes in their lives. In order to do so, the organization brings together partners to help give support and teach the homeless soccer skills. During the Cup, homeless people from all around the world will be able to meet and talk to other homeless people from other countries.

This year, the Homeless World Cup will be taking place in Santiago, Chile. The news was made public during a rematch of the 2012 Homeless World Cup Finalists Mexico and Chile.

The Homeless World Cup is partnered up the Futbol Calle, an organization formed by Accion Total, a sports company who specialize in the creation of sports facilities and helping people alter the direction of their lives. Currently, there are 2,000 participants involved in Futbol Calle.

The other partners also contribute to helping the homeless make progress professionally. They provide the access to education, jobs, and if needed, legal advice.

There are also many ways every day people can get involved in helping the Homeless World Cup gain publicity and funds, their website contains a complete packet of fundraising ideas and templates for posters, flyers, and logos. You can find the packets and templates, as well as read several stories from past players on the website and like their Facebook page.

Becka Felcon

Sources: Homeless World Cup, Homeless World Cup, I Love Chile
Photo: Homeless World Cup