homelessness in israelHomelessness in Israel has been a rising problem in the country. Much homelessness in Israel is a byproduct of ongoing poverty that many Israelis face. In 2017, the poverty rate rose from 19.4% to 20.4% in 2018. Unfortunately, children make up a significant proportion of impoverished people in Israel. With Israel having many people on the streets without a place to call home, homeless Israelis are dying. Many homeless people have been killed over the last decade in Israel as well.

Lack of Assistance

One problem facing homelessness in Israel is the country’s failure to prioritize assistance for the homeless. Those who are homeless or struggling to meet their rental payments don’t receive enough benefits from the Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to make ends meet. Specifically, Social Affairs and the Social Ministry only offer 1,632 shekels a month to these people who meet the requirements for aid. This equals $436 a month. Further, the maximum amount of money these services offer to victims of homelessness and poverty is 1,735 shekels a month. This equals $464 a month for a single person.

These living conditions make it challenging for poor Israelis to stay out of the streets. Moreover, this system helps less than half of homeless people in Israel. The other half don’t qualify because they can’t document that they are homeless. However, it is not easy for people on the street to support their claim easily. Even so, they still need any help they can receive to fight homelessness in Israel.

Fatality Rates Among the Homeless

Many people who find themselves on the street in Israel aren’t just financially hurt but are physically in danger, too. Many homeless people live in close proximity to others in the same situation. Additionally, many lack the funds to purchase treatment when they get sick, which is especially concerning during the pandemic.

As of 2018, 610 homeless people have died on the streets of Israel. Different diseases and viruses can be a major cause of death for those who die on the streets. Homeless people often suffer the same illnesses as others, but their death rate is three times higher. These circumstances can also make homeless people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Indeed, as of October 2020, Israel has 126,419 cases of COVID-19. So far, 100,357 people have recovered and 993 have died.

Tackling Homelessness in Israel

Homelessness in Israel may seem impossible to eradicate, but many organizations are working to do just that. For example, the Israel Homeless Association (IHA) and shelters for the homeless have become safe havens for homeless people. The Lasova nonprofit organization and the Health Ministry have also provided a “home” to those on the streets. These organizations give them access a safe place to sleep. Around 1,900 people who are victims of homelessness in Israel are receiving aid from the Health Ministry. The IHA targets areas that are most at risk and ignored by the Israeli government. Recently, the collapse of the country’s safety net has caused the IHA charity to put its money into assisting struggling families.

Three years in a row, the IHA has provided clothes for the homeless in Israel registered with the Homeless Offices of Beer Sheva and Eilat. Additionally, the IHA, with the help of other service organizations, helped relocate seven families to a higher quality of living conditions. One hundred thirty kids in the Negev region who are homeless have received over $7,500 worth of toys from the IHA.

The work of organizations like the IHA provides a glimmer of hope among the crisis of homelessness in Israel. During the pandemic, the fact that homelessness puts many people at risk of death and disease is especially significant. Organizations and the Israeli government must work together to tackle this issue.

– Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Israel
Israel has one of the highest poverty rates among developed countries. In 2016, approximately 21% of Israelis were below the poverty line. Despite this prevalent issue, the country has yet to adopt a system for combating homelessness. The Israeli Association for Civil Rights reported 25,000 homeless people residing in Israel, though the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services accounted for just 1,872 people living on the streets. Due to social services’ stringent standards for qualifying people as “homeless,” thousands of street dwellers and otherwise vulnerable people are unable to find permanent housing and meet their basic living needs. These three organizations have acknowledged the housing crisis and are fighting homelessness in Israel by providing positive communities, social support and safe housing opportunities to those most in need.

 3 Organizations Fighting Homelessness in Israel

  1. Homeless World Cup Foundation. This organization works in Tel Aviv to support Football for the Homeless, a program that coordinates weekly training sessions for homeless adults. The Homeless World Cup Foundation organizes an annual week-long soccer tournament with over 500 players from countries around the world, all of whom have experienced homelessness. In 2019, the Cardiff 2019 Homeless World Cup attracted over 80,000 spectators as well as millions of online viewers. Participants’ social workers typically refer them to the Football for the Homeless training program. In addition to playing soccer, participants can gain coaching qualifications to help maintain the program’s sustainable business structure. In 2019, Israel sent three teams (two from Tel Aviv and one from Jerusalem) with four players each to the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, Wales.
  2. Israel Homeless Association. The Israel Homeless Association (IHA) supports young professionals and families who have become homeless due to economic upheaval in the Middle East and diminishing social services in Israel. Examples of such beneficiaries include young parents living in tent cities or those unable to afford public transportation to work outside of their neighborhood. For three consecutive years, IHA has provided clothing to every person registered with the Homeless Offices in Beer Sheva and Eilat. The organization also collaborated with members of the Knesset to relocate seven families subject to forcible evacuation in Beer Sheva, and later distributed over $7,500 worth of toys to 130 displaced children in the Negev region. Such accolades have contributed to IHA’s ranking as one of the premier micro-charities in Israel.
  3. ELEM / Youth in Distress in Israel. ELEM / Youth in Distress in Israel aims to “treat and transform” the lives of vulnerable young people in Israel. ELEM’s 285 professionals and 2,000 volunteers make the organization one of the region’s leading nonprofits. ELEM serves 21,000 youth on an annual basis and cites the 100,000 children seeking its services as evidence for the urgent need to support Israel’s young people in crisis. This year, ELEM funded 82 youth programs that provide services such as mentoring, counseling and vocational training in 42 cities across Israel. To help protect highly vulnerable young women living on the street, ELEM founded The Shelter for Homeless Young Women in Jerusalem. The shelter serves 18- to 26-year-old women struggling with substance use disorders, prostitution and estranged family members. This space offers these women unconditional humanitarian aid, clothing, hot food, showers and legal advice. In 2018, the shelter succeeded in increasing street patrols to protect vulnerable women in the neighborhood, developing a professional training course for new volunteers and moving to a renovated new building. In the future, ELEM hopes to further develop the shelter to allow for extended opening hours and continued support for young women following their stays at the shelter.

A Long-term Solution

Due to the dynamic and diverse nature of homelessness, Israel’s policies governing social and housing services struggle to account for a significant portion of this population. The aforementioned organizations work to fill the housing gap that the government left by creating positive and sustainable living experiences for Israel’s homeless population; however, additional work is necessary to reduce homelessness in Israel.

In response to the city’s homelessness crisis, the Tel Aviv municipality is planning to implement Housing First programming. Housing First is an innovative model for addressing urban homelessness that multiple cities across the United States has already adopted along with countries including France, Denmark and Finland.

In exchange for 30% of their income and coordinated check-ins from program representatives, Housing First residents have 24/7 access to a one-room apartment and other long-term benefits. Following their transitions into permanent housing, residents receive supportive services and swift connection to opportunities within their local communities.

In January 2020, Housing First was still in its very early planning stages and some have noted the significant need for government funding; however, Tel Aviv City Hall states that its social services department continues to closely investigate the model. Despite the financial and political challenges of implementing a new strategy for managing homelessness in Israel, city officials reported that “the existing solutions are short-term and in too many cases don’t free the homeless from the circle of suffering…we are not giving up and are examining innovative methods used around the world.”

– Lindsay Rosenthal
Photo: Wikipedia