The situation of homelessness is not just an isolated issue, it is the catalyst and a breeding ground for other problems for both individual and society levels. The circumstance of being homeless is when people are without a permanent place to reside in such as a house or an apartment. Their inadequacy to acquire and maintain a regular, safe and secure place of living, categorizes them as homeless. Varying definitions are used for statistical purposes by different countries, which ranges from the population either living in homeless shelters houses, long-term stay in a motel, vehicle squatting, living in a tent-city or any other ad-hoc housing facility.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, defined a homeless household as those households without a shelter and would fall within the scope of living quarters. A relatively broader categorization of the homeless population was given by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe into: Primary homelessness (rooflessness) including people living on the streets without a roof over their heads and falls within the category of living quarters; Secondary homelessness including people who have no place of permanent residence and shift their accommodations from dwelling to shelter homes and institutions or quarters for the homeless. The historic document of Universal Declaration on Human Rights as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, recognizes a basic standard of living as a right of every individual, necessary for his health and well-being. Additionally, basic provision of food, clothing, housing, medical care and social services are also recognized as primary requirements for a basic standard of living. The right to means of security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other events are also pre-requisites for survival and sustenance.
While the homeless population rates vary across countries the most common factors of homelessness are economic, political, conflictual factors, social structures of a society, housing provisions of the country and social security policies. It is an intricate interplay between these structural, systems failures and individual factors that lead to homelessness.
Structural Factors: Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked, leading to the inability of the poor people in paying for basic necessities. Economic and societal factors that affect the opportunity and environment for individuals, are also part of the structural problems. A lack of adequate and regular income, in-access to affordable housing and health supports while facing discrimination, aid in occurrence of homelessness. The economic shifts in the national economy also thrust the prevalence of such a situation.
System Failures: As declared by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, it is the prime duty of the government of a nation to provide its citizens with basic housing facilities, parallel with the criminalization of the act of beggary. The failure in the deliverance of such policies, where the systems are crippled in availing care and support, results in the vulnerable population turning homeless. A few of the system failures include a lack of support to the people below poverty line, vulnerable population like the migrants and refugees, inadequate financial support to people in hospitals, corrections and mental health etc.
Individual and Relational Factors: It is inclusive of personal crisis at home like domestic violence or a family split-up resulting in lack of resources, mental health and addiction challenges, health problems and social exclusion like gender inequality faced by an individual.
There are numerous challenges faced by the homeless population. They are often the victims of violent crimes as well as culprits of criminal activities. The lack of identity and recognition by the government lets them stay anonymous and carry out criminal activities. In terms of daily struggles, the lack of sanitation facilities is a major threat to their health. While a break in contact with family, friends and the government push them in a vicious circle of endless homelessness. The homeless state also moves them towards medical problems like hypothermia, due to sleeping in the cold weather without adequate resources. Incidents of social discrimination, are also faced by homeless people like rejection from social events, limited access to education, strain in relationships with the mainstream, instances of distrust and deprivation of employment and banking opportunities.
Countries like Australia, the Czech Republic and New Zealand report relatively larger incidences of homelessness. This can be partly explained with the broad definitions adopted by these countries. In Australia, the homeless population can be largely found in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. It accounts for 0.47% of total population as homeless. The situation in New Zealand is largely linked with the lack of suitable housing. The country accounts for 0.94% of total population as homeless.
Countries like Japan, Croatia, Spain and Portugal account for the smallest percentage of the total population as homeless. Japan’s reputation as a middle-class paradise, with an overly equal distribution of wealth, leads to its lowest number of homeless population. Whereas the homeless population in Croatia, have been integrated and are being helped to stand on their feet as a three-year program co-financed by the Ministry of Demography of the nation.
Below given table mentions the countries and the homeless population rates (as % of total population):
|Country||Homeless as % of total population||Year|
|United Kingdom||0.25% (households)||2015-16|