We take it for granted that we have enough food, a safe home and other necessities and comforts, but on World Homelessness Day, we stop to remember that others are not so lucky. Every now and then, I see someone whose tragic circumstances have forced them out of their homes, but what is the true extent of the problem?
Homelessness in Australia
According to the 2011 Australian Census, around 1 in 200 people were homeless on census night. In numbers, the figure is over 105,000 people. Despite what we may think, only 6% of homeless Australians are “sleeping rough” on the street or in a park; most are staying in a type of temporary lodging or supported accommodation. There are many reasons why someone may be homeless. Almost a quarter – 23% – are homeless because of domestic violence, and a further 6% because of family breakdown. Most others are homeless because of financial difficulties, including an inability to find adequate, affordable housing.
Fortunately, there are now initiatives to empower homeless Australians. The Big Issue, a non-profit organization which sells a fortnightly magazine, employs homeless people as street sellers, as well as in back-office roles including packing and sorting. This gives them the dignity that earning your own money brings. Many have since moved on to mainstream employment, such as office or café jobs. It was a relief to hear that something is being done to economically empower those left homeless, instead of simply giving handouts.
Homelessness in India
India is estimated to be home to 78 million homeless people, with 11 million being street children. Although the urban and rural homeless populations had dropped by 20% and 28% respectively from 2001 to 2011, it is still 78 million too many – 1 in 16 people. Many sadly lose their lives due to illness or weather extremities in the summer, winter or monsoon season. There is also not only a lack of political will to solve this issue, but social attitudes towards the homeless are often negative too. When homeless people seek shelter at train stations, station masters are often asked to evict them, whether they be simply thrown out or put on the next train, which may break up any social support they have. Poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, addiction and family violence are some of the factors contributing to this terrible problem. One significant factor is the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas, forcing thousands to move to the cities in search of work. A lack of education and employability means that such efforts often fail.
Hope for the Future
While the issue of homelessness in India may seem insurmountable, charities like the HOPE Foundation is thankfully stepping in to help destitute and trafficked children. In their child protection homes, younger boys and girls are sent to school, while older children are either put in school or given vocational training and opportunities so they can become independent. HOPE not only ensures that these children have food, education and a safe home, but also a normal childhood where they can have fun instead of constantly worrying about survival. When a child receives a pair of shoes through Moeloco and the HOPE Foundation, it is possible that they have been affected by homelessness too. This is yet another reason why I started Moeloco. This is also why, despite the sheer scale of the homelessness issue, I am hopeful for a brighter future.
Chief Energy Officer, Moeloco