Photo by: Christian Stahl https://unsplash.com/photos/8S96OpxSlvg?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink
Many of us would describe home as stability, safety, comfort, security and unity. It is never just a building. It is a place where memories are built. It is the foundation of our lives. Even when we struggle through life we want to return home, because it is our refuge, our hope and our shelter.
It is estimated that 150 million people in the world are currently homeless, which is about 2% of the whole world population. 1.6 billion (more than 20% of world population) lack adequate housing. What is also concerning is that these numbers are rising. More and more people lack the stability, safety and comfort of having a home.
There are many reasons people become homeless. Often it is due to inadequate income, not having access to affordable housing or running from personal issues or domestic violence. Mentally ill and addicted people that have trouble holding a steady job frequently become homeless. People displaced by natural disasters and violence all over the world have no opportunity to have a proper home.
There is also a growing problem of hidden homelessness of people that live with others, often known as ‘couch surfing’. These people are unable to secure permanent housing, but are not accessing services and supports for the homeless and thus not counted as homeless in statistics.
People without homes are at much higher risk of death, malnutrition, chronic pains, dental problems, catching infectious disease and developing mental illness. Even in first world countries treating homeless people for their health problems comes with challenges and some treatments are impossible. The homeless may not have the money to buy necessary drugs or their medication could be stolen. Prescribing bed rest is impossible and allowing them to stay in hospital is often not an option.
Only a small number of people exit homelessness because having no home creates many barriers. No access to showers and clean clothes would prevent a homeless person from finding a job. A stable place of living is required for tax purposes and employers are required to obtain that information from the newly hired. Having no address creates a challenge with opening a bank account where they would receive the payment for their job. Without proof of address, a person cannot vote.
The decrease of affordable housing, global conflicts and climate crises will rapidly increase the number of homeless people around the world. If the current trend continues, the number of people who are homeless or living in inadequate housing might double by 2100. The problem of homelessness cannot be ignored. Structures need to be put in place to prevent people from becoming homeless and help to provide a way out for those already without a proper home.