Homelessness is a problem that has affected human society throughout its history. There are millions of people all around the world that have nowhere to sleep and instead, have to spend nights living rough on the streets. While much has been done in recent times to try to fix this issue and get the less fortunate into some sort of shelter, it has proved almost impossible for governments and other officials to solve the problem in a way that means there are no more homeless people in cities.
It isn’t just a problem for poorer nations either. While countries that are still developing are much more likely to have a large rate of homelessness, some of the richest and most advanced places on the planet have a huge number of people living without somewhere to call home. Europe, North America, and Asia all still suffer from the destitute who cannot afford a house of their own despite the social welfare programs that run there and the relative prosperity of nations in those locations.
The difficulty in eradicating the problem comes from the fact that there are so many different reasons why a person might be homeless. In some cases, it will simply be due to extreme poverty but in others, there will be more complex factors at play. This can include global recessions causing financial difficulties or even social issues such as domestic violence or drug abuse, causing a person to flee a home. What is clear though, is that some cities have devastating numbers of homeless people sleeping rough.
Recent research carried out in the Irish city of Dublin has revealed that there are almost 2,000 people who are homeless. Recent years have seen as many as 10 people become homeless every single day, with many cases seeing entire families losing their homes and having to move onto the streets or into sheltered accommodation.
According to Mike Allen, of the advocacy group Focus, the rise in homelessness was the result of the global economy and the lack of affordable housing for tenants as rents rise at a fast rate. This has led to many families being unable to afford to live in their homes or losing them as they are bought from their previous landlord.
“The continued massive rise in family homelessness is due to the prolonged crisis in the private rented sector. One key aspect of this crisis is lending agencies foreclosing on buy-to-let landlords and then evicting the tenants.”
A number of different factors have seen poverty rise in England over the past decade. The global financial crisis pushed the government into enacting austerity whilst a host of jobs were lost when companies had to cut back on expenditure. A huge cut in housing benefit and welfare aid also meant the poorest in society got even less help from the state. This has led to a 26% increase in homelessness and tens of thousands of people depending on food banks in order to survive.
London has been one of the worst hit places, which comes as no surprise considering the expense of housing in the city. Official statistics reveal that there are currently more than 6,000 living rough on the streets of London and many more depending on shelters or hostels. The vast majority of these are men and many of them are below the age of 30.
There are few places that were hit as hard by the global financial crisis in 2008 than Greece. In particular, the capital city of Athens was one of the worse affected areas as the GDP of Greece sunk by 25% and the unemployment rate jumped to more than a quarter. Incredibly, this means that almost 200,000 people in the city of just 670,000 are without a job and those that do have some form of employment still struggle with bills and rent.
It is no wonder then that so many people have been forced onto the streets of Athens. Official numbers are hard to come by, but there are at least 1,000 living rough on the streets of Athens on any given night. However, there could be as many as 15,000 who are technically homeless but are living in some sort of shelter or temporary accommodation.
12. Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, as the capital of Argentina, has gone through economic turmoil recently. Coupled with a downturn in the financial markets around the globe, the country has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people struggling with poverty and then becoming homeless. Data shows that at least 15,000 are without a home in the capital city, with more than a third of that number being children or the elderly.
The increase in the number of homeless people has come about as there are simply not enough shelters run by the state, leaving thousands without access to beds, food and warmth. As the government lacks funds to combat the problem, more and more people are facing homelessness as they are evicted from their homes for being unable to pay rent or mortgages.
11. Sao Paulo
Sao Paulo is home to around 20 million people, making it the biggest city in the whole of Brazil. It is also the richest city in the country, boasting a vibrant center and plenty of affluent housing and amenities. Unfortunately, it is also suffering from an epidemic of homelessness, with an estimated 16,000 of the city’s population living without any sort of home or shelter.
Many of the homeless have lost homes as a direct result of the devastated Brazilian economy that has seen millions of people forced to live in slums and favelas. The pandemic is made all the worse by measures taken by politicians to try and clean up the image of public spaces by clearing out the personal belongings of those living on the street, including mattresses and blankets. This has led to several people dying when the weather gets particularly cold in the winter months.
The capital city and the most populated area of Indonesia, Jakarta has a population of just over 10 million people. Unfortunately, many of these live in extreme poverty and an estimated 30,000 people are currently homeless. The reasons for so many people being forced to live on the streets in what is a moderately rich and advanced area are complicated.
One of the primary reasons why so many people are without a home is because of a policy of land confiscation that was initiated by General Suharto. Under the pretense of taking the land to develop it for the local population, the president would instead embezzle funds and use the land to further his own political plans. Recent disasters in terms of flooding have also destroyed tens of thousands of homes. This left those without any access to temporary accommodation having to move onto the streets as they had nowhere else to go.
9. Mexico City
Mexico City is one of the most populated areas on the planet and many of its inhabitants live in extreme poverty. This has manifested itself in a culture of violence, drug abuse and family breakdowns that often leads to people having to live on the streets as they have nowhere else to go. It is estimated that an astonishing 30,000 are homeless in Mexico City, with 15,000 of those being children.
With almost 1 in 5 children in the capital living rough on the streets, the issue has become a huge problem for the government. However, their efforts so far have proved ineffective at getting people off the streets and back into work and housing. Many of the kids who don’t have a home are forced to beg or steal to survive and don’t get any form of education.
8. Los Angeles
Like many other prosperous cities, the high cost of living in Los Angeles means that many people have been forced to live on the streets as they have lost their homes. However, a large drug problem has also contributed to the more than 50,000 that make up the homeless population in the city as criminal records and substance abuse means that they find it difficult to get jobs. Amazingly, almost half of the homeless population in Los Angeles is African-American despite the fact that they make up less than 10% of the total population.
Perhaps the most shocking fact about the homeless problem in the home of Hollywood is the fact that so many people don’t have any shelter whatsoever. A shortage of emergency accommodation means that 70% of every person without a home has to sleep without any form of shelter, the highest proportion in the entire US.
Egypt has had a problem with homelessness for decades. As the country began to develop into a more modern state, hundreds of thousands of people were left behind in poverty, unable to keep up with the more prosperous members of society. Despite government-backed initiatives aimed at cutting down on the number of people living on the streets, corruption meant little money ever reached its intended recipients.
While official government statistics state that there are only around 5,000 children sleeping rough and relying on begging to buy food and water in Cairo, aid agencies and charities believe the actual number could be as high as 50,000. Considering the recent unrest in the country and the fact that there are no official reports about how many adults are sleeping rough, some estimate that as many as 100,000 people could be living without homes in the Egyptian city.
While there have been great waves made by the Indian government to improve the situation in the country for much of the population over the past few decades, the sheer number of people living in India means that this task is far from complete. Cities around the state are crowded with the homeless who have nowhere to live and have to spend their nights on the streets. The worst offender is Mumbai, where there are upwards of 57,000 living without a home.
The problem is made all the worse as there are very few shelters run by the government to provide some accommodation to the poorest in society. Unlike in Delhi, where there are 184 official shelters than can take in 15,000 people, Mumbai has just seven shelters. This has left thousands of people without food and warmth or access to medicine and a bed to sleep in.
5. New York City
New York City is arguably the most famous city in the world, with competition only from the likes of iconic places such as London and Paris. Its skyline is dominated by huge skyscrapers and it is essentially an advertisement for the prosperity and riches of the United States. It is home to the likes of Central Park, Madison Square Gardens, Broadway, Wall Street, and the Statue of Liberty, so most people would probably assume that it wasn’t also the city with the biggest homeless problem in the country.
A large part of this problem comes from the fact that the price of homes, both to buy and rent, is incredibly high and rises at a staggering rate every single year. This means that many people simply cannot afford to rent a property anymore and are forced to move onto the streets, leading to up to 75,000 living rough on the street – a number so large that it accounts for 14% of all the homeless people living in the United States.
Nigeria has faced a complex housing crisis in recent years. While the government and agencies within the African nation have created several initiatives to build more homes and create thousands of new housing estates over the past decade, millions of people within the country are still without homes. This problem is no more clear than in the capital city of Abuja. Here, there are tens of thousands of families who are either living in temporary shelters or on the street, despite the huge number of empty houses that sit in the heart of the city.
The problem has arisen because much of the new housing has been priced out of the reach of low and middle-income earners. This allows only the very well off to actually purchase or rent one of the new homes, leaving those desperate for somewhere to live without any chance of being able to get a house of their own.
Manila, a city from the Philippines, has one of the worst records in the world in terms of the rate of homelessness. Of the millions living in the city, at least 70,000 have to sleep rough on the streets, relying on hammocks and pieces of cardboard for their beds. Many of those on the streets are families with young children who cannot afford to rent or buy a home for themselves and instead have to make do with living in slums that are constantly victimized by violence, crime and substance abuse.
Although the government claims to be working on several programs to try and solve the crisis, only around 2,000 people have been homed in rent-free accommodation in the past few years, leaving thousands more families having to survive in harsh conditions that dramatically lower their health and life expectancy.
It is difficult to get accurate numbers for how many people are homeless in the Russian city of Moscow. Politicians say that the number is around 10,000, while non-government organizations claim that as many as 100,000 are forced to live rough on the streets of the capital. Cuts to welfare spending, rapid inflation, and a damaging economic crisis mean that many have lost their homes and can no longer afford to pay for any sort of accommodation.
The problem in Moscow is magnified by the freezing cold weather that kills hundreds of homeless people every single month. This means that those without a home are forced to sleep in sewers and tunnels to avoid snow, whilst also relying on charities to provide them with warm clothing and food. With little help from the local government, the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
Like many other countries in Africa, Kenya is suffering from a staggering housing deficit that has left a huge portion of the population with a home to live in. While many parts of the city have been developed as more money flows through Kenya, there are huge swathes of people who have not been able to take advantage of the new riches and are stuck in extreme poverty.
According to data from research carried out by a number of different charities, Nairobi is home to some 250,000 homeless people. Most shocking of all is the fact that around 60,000 of those are actually children who have to live on the streets. Many of them have either been abandoned by their families who could not afford to look after them or sent out to beg, although some have even lost their families due to conflict and illness.
This homelessness problem has led to a vicious circle, as those on the street are malnourished and often addicted to drugs and alcohol, making it difficult for them to help themselves without aid from a reluctant government.