Homelessness is far from a developing country's problem. In Europe alone, there are 3 million people on the streets. In Australia and Canada, hundreds of thousands of people are homeless. Of course, the problem is much worse in poorer countries. There are over 9.5 million homeless people in Columbia and 24.4 million in Nigeria. In total, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimates that the world has 100 million homeless people.
How do people end up on the streets? Job losses, foreclosures, unemployment, and lack of affordable housing all play a part. Social factors can also be part of the problem; domestic violence, lack of a supportive family, drug abuse, alcoholism and mental illnesses all contribute to homelessness.
Finding a solution to the homelessness problem has been hard for many cities, states and countries. The current New York mayor has a notoriously tough time reducing the number of 'cluster sites' in his city. Some cities, like Moscow, have no programs in place to fight the problem despite the numbers of homeless people growing steadily. Other cities such as Phoenix and San Francisco have put measures in place to reduce homelessness, such as newspapers which are given to the homeless population to sell and earn a living.
Some cities are struggling much more than others, and some are overwhelmed by levels of poverty. These fifteen cities have bigger homeless populations than anywhere else in the world.
15 Athens, Greece
Homelessness in Greece has significantly increased to 20,000 homeless people in recent years. About 50% of the homeless population roams the streets of Athens. A high rate of homelessness in this, the home of Aristotle and Plato, is largely down to the aggressive recession that hit Greece during the Global Financial Crisis.
14 Phoenix, Arizona, United States
By the end of 2014, there were 11,314 homeless people in Phoenix Arizona. The Phoenix Rescue Mission suggests that the main reasons people end up homeless are foreclosures, job losses and evictions.
Social situations such as drug and alcohol addiction, mental conditions, and domestic violence also force people onto the streets.
13 San Francisco, Northern California, United States
The Coalition on Homelessness reported that 10,373 people were housed in emergency shelters in San Francisco in 2013. This homeless advocacy association aims at reducing this number over the next few years. It was formed in 1987 and created an ingenious way to end homelessness: Printing and distributing a magazine, which they called the Street Sheet, to the homeless to sell.
12 Washington, D.C., United States
Despite being the capital of the most powerful nation on earth, Washington, D.C. harbors many homeless people. D.C., formally the District of Columbia, faces crippling homelessness with over 57,000 people on the streets.
Of these, 13,000 reside on the streets of Washington. These individuals are so deep in abject poverty that they cannot meet basic needs such as buying food or clothes. Five in every 10 homeless adults reported a $0 income while 30% tested positive for chronic health problems.
11 Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Boston is the third major city in the US with the highest number of homeless people. It also has the highest number of people living in emergency shelters – 16,540, to be precise.
According to surveys, up to 25% of the homeless have jobs, but these jobs do not pay enough to fund a roof over their heads.
10 Sao Paulo, Brazil
A 2011 government census shows that there are in excess of 15,000 homeless people in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, as well as in the Americas.
9 Budapest, Hungary
It's technically illegal to be homeless in Hungary. The parliament of Hungary introduced this law to forcefully move an increasing number of homeless people into shelters.
8 Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires has an estimated 15,000 homeless people. Sadly, 30% are children and 13% are elderly. The city provides shelters for the destitute, but it can only shelter a maximum of 1,700 people. The number of those without a roof over their heads is growing, and their chances of gaining employment are dwindling. Reasons as to why people end up homeless in Argentina are vague.
7 Mumbai, India
Mumbai has a population of almost 12.5 million. Over half of these residents live in one of the many thousands of slums in Mumbai.
25,000 of these people are broke and on the streets. Lack of affordable housing, job losses, attrition of family support, inadequate income, substance abuse, disability and domestic violence are the leading causes of homelessness in Mumbai.
6 Jakarta, Indonesia
Indonesia has higher Twitter activity than any other city in the world. Most residents here also have two phones each. Despite all these advancements, Jakarta is also home to over 28,000 people living rough.
The homelessness phenomenon began with the reign of the tyrant General Suharto. Suharto instituted policies that oppressed the locals. His administration would grab land that was privately held under the pretence of development. However, the land was only used to enrich the government.
5 Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is home to over 30,000 homeless people. A disturbing 50% are children, and poverty is the main reason so many children do not have a roof over their heads.
One major effect of poverty is family breakdown and physical abuse. Many children prefer to run away from their homes for fear that arguments between their parents will become violent. Some leave at this point while others leave after a physical abuse incident.
4 Moscow, Russia
3.4% of the population in Russia is homeless. Tens of thousands of the homeless population is in Moscow. Researchers place the number of homeless people in Russia at 1.5 – 3 million. Homelessness in this country has been the norm since World War II.
3 Los Angeles, California, United States
The streets of Los Angeles are home to over 57,000 destitute people.
The majority are male and single, and half of these homeless people are African American - despite the fact that the black population only accounts for 9% of L.A.'s total population.
2 New York City, New York, United States
There are 60,352 people without a roof under their heads in the Big Apple.
This number includes 25,640 children. 22,386 are adults and over 12,326 are single. These numbers have continued to rise steadily regardless of the campaign promises by the new mayor Bill de Blasio.
1 Manila, Philippines
Manila, Philippines has the highest homelessness rate in the world. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that this city has 70,000 dispossessed people on its streets. The commission also reports that the entire country has a distressing 1,200,000 children living on the streets. These children are faced with numerous problems including the abuse of drugs such as marijuana, shabu and cough syrups, health problems due to the deplorable conditions in which they live in, child prostitution by pedophiles and foreign sex tourists, and the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Recently, when the pope was visiting the country, numerous street children were rounded up and locked in cages. Authorities supported the inhumane act arguing that it was done to prevent gangs of beggars from approaching the pope.
Sources: theguardian.com, dailymail.co.uk, nydailynews.com, academia.edu
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