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Homelessness in Dominican RepublicThe Dominican Republic is known for its beautiful beaches, exquisite cuisine and all-inclusive resorts. Tourists can expect to witness beautiful sunsets and take amazing pictures during their stay. What tourists don’t see, however, is the crime, poverty and extreme homelessness in the Dominican Republic — a dark side to this island that must be brought to light.

5 Facts About Homelessness in the Dominican Republic

  1. Many homeless children are subject to violence and abuse. A homeless shelter in Santo Domingo named Niños Del Camino serves children from impoverished families. As of 2009, 77% of these children have experienced domestic violence. Children without a home are left unprotected and subject to abuse from people on the street, in a shelter or anywhere they can find a home.
  2. A significant percentage of children are homeless and need help. The Dominican National Council for Children and Adolescents serves about 19,000 children, out of the 4.7 million children that live in the Dominican Republic. Close to 600,000 children under age 15 lack parental care, and over 1 million children live in poverty. This means that far too many children in the Dominican Republic are homeless, and countless more are suffering from extreme poverty.
  3. Homeless children are referred to as “palomos.” The term comes from the Spanish word for dove, but it also refers to pests and nuisances. This name indicates how little homeless children mean to their country, and how desperately they must fend for themselves on the streets of the Dominican Republic.
  4. Street kids become desperate and turn to crime. When children are abandoned with nowhere to go, it makes sense that they turn to a life of crime. According to AmeriHand, “The longer they stay in the street, the more likely they are to start using and selling drugs, then escalate to armed robbery or other violent crime.” These kids have nothing to lose, so they do whatever they can to earn some money and get off the street.
  5. The National Council for Children and Adolescents is here to help the homeless children of the Dominican Republic. This organization aims to guarantee “the fundamental rights of children and adolescents and [promote] their development,” which includes helping them get off the street and back into their homes. The Council works with the government to increase the accountability of the government for vulnerable children in the Dominican Republic.

Palomos lead a life of sadness and poverty. These children get through difficult times by finding companions on the streets and sticking together. Most of children on the street are homeless for one of two reasons: either they were kicked out or abandoned by their family, or they left on their own accord after enduring horrible circumstances at home. While some children return home, others remain on the streets, subjected to the natural elements, abuse, muggings and other misfortunes. The Dominican Republic must do better for its homeless population, especially its children.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr