It is surprising as well as shocking to find that despite so much progress made by the human in this millennium, there is a sizable chunk of humanity that does not even have a roof over its head. It is all the more shocking to find that it is not just restricted to the undeveloped and third-world countries of the world.
It is such a shame that the most developed countries of the world like US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia etc. all have millions of homeless amidst their rich population. These homeless people who do not get even one square meal a day are not in the remote inaccessible areas, but right in the midst of the rich. Take any city like New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris; you will find millions of homeless living in the streets and parks.
It is so surprising to know that homelessness is not just restricted to developing countries. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights estimates that the world has 100 million homeless people. The primary reason for homelessness is poverty. Other causes that play a major role in rendering a person homeless are; Job losses, or long spell of unemployment, domestic violence, lack of a supportive family, drug abuse, alcoholism and mental illnesses etc. Despite the fact that many countries and states of US, homelessness has been made a crime, and the intervention of state exists to rehabilitate the homeless, the situation remains worse.
There are not enough resources allocated for this purpose nor there is a political will. It seems that because the homeless do not make a powerful lobby or voting constituency, there is no one to speak on their behalf. Even the UNO has done little. There is not even a proper census of such people. There is no data available with UNO or any country. Wherever data is available, it is old and has not been updated. Here is the list of the Top 13 cities with highest homeless population in the world 2018.
13. Washington D.C., United States; 9,000 homeless
Washington D.C, is the capital of the most powerful nation in the world. Despite this there are thousands of poorest among the poor who do not have a roof over their head. They are forced to eke out a living out of charity and spend their nights on the streets and public places. On Jan. 28, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development annual study released the homeless data. HUD’s annual “homeless assessment report” has been a cause of concern for everyone. HUD counted 8,350 homeless people living in the District of Columbia. This is about 1,000 people more than were counted in January 2015. The number of homeless people in the District rose 14.4 percent between 2015 and 2016, which is one of the highest increases in the country. At 8,350 people in 2016, represents a 27.7 jump since 2010.
The District of Columbia enforces a right-to-shelter law that guarantees shelter for homeless single people and families when temperatures fall between November and March. Only California and Washington State had a larger increase in the number of homeless people than D.C. California and Washington State had an increase of 2,400 and 1,400 respectively. These people do not have access to health and medical facilities, nor do children have access to education. There is a plan to open seven homeless facilities spread across the city by 2020. The plan is expected cost about $100 million up front for land and construction.
12. Budapest, Hungary; 10,000 homeless
Hungary’s Supreme Court threw out a part of a bill that aimed to prevent the homeless from staying in the streets of the nation’s capital, Budapest. The parliament of Hungary had introduced a law to forcefully move an increasing number of homeless people into shelters. The bill continues to bans the homeless from staying in public places, subways and special areas such as public transport stations, playgrounds or world heritage sites in Budapest.
The parliament prohibited the homeless from living in public places and building shacks on public property, as well as scavenging trash cans. Those found guilty of the crime twice were to pay hefty fines and could be imprisoned. This law was called very cruel, by the Human Rights activists. The homeless population in Budapest, Hungary’s capital has grown up to around 20,000. Apart from the extreme poverty that these homeless live in, there are health problems too that they have to face. Moreover, during winters the average temperature drops down to over -4 degrees. Keeping themselves alive is the main concern of the homeless.
11. Seattle, Washington State, United States; 12,000 homeless
The official numbers till some year back was 10,730 homeless. In the Seattle King County area, there are about 10,000 homeless people living on the streets. On January 23, 2015 the total count was 10,047 homeless people. Out of this those on streets numbered 3,772, those in Emergency Shelters 3,282, and the numbers in transitional housing was 2,993. The large number of homeless is due to the job cuts and unemployment. Rents and real estate price are beyond the reach of the unemployed.
10. Boston, Massachusetts, United States; 16,000 homeless
In recent years there has been about 7 percent increase in homeless people every year. The number of families has increased by more than one-fourth. The reason is attributed to the fact that income no longer keeps pace with expenditures. Things fall apart quickly in case of medical emergency or if they lose their jobs. The rents skyrocket, while the wages of lower income workers remain stagnant, resulting in many working families becoming homeless. The state spent more than $40 million on hotel and motel costs for the program in the 2015 fiscal year, up from only $1 million six years earlier, according to the report.
Using figures from the report, which states that it cost an average of $2,500 a month to put a homeless family up in a hotel or a motel and the average stay was seven months, the housing costs for the 176 homeless families in hotels or motels in Boston in 2015 would have been roughly $3 million. Boston is the third major city in the US that has highest number of homeless. It also has the highest number of people living in emergency shelters. About 25% of the homeless have jobs, but these jobs do not pay enough to fund a roof over their heads. Yet Boston has very few homeless people wandering the streets. It has a strict ‘right to shelter’ law. This makes it mandatory on the state to find a place for qualified families living rough to live.
9. Sao Paulo, Brazil; 21,000 homeless
There has been no authentic census of homeless people in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Sao Paolo is the richest city in Brazil. It is estimated that there are more than 21,000 homeless in the city. A 2011 government census shows that there are in excess of 15,000 homeless people. There has been no comprehensive authentic census taken after that.
The life on the streets is very harsh and cruel. The authorities hound the homeless and drive them away. They are separated from their meagre belongings which provide protection against the harsh -4 degrees cold.
8. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 30,000 homeless
The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires has a reported homeless statistics of 15,000; however several agencies point out that in fact there are almost double the number, i.e. 30,000 homeless people in the city. They live on streets and wherever possible are cared for by the local residents. They live in cardboard and wood houses; and at times are fed by charitable and philanthropic institutions.
One third of these homeless are children whereas one-fifth are elderly. The government refuses to accept their existence in the absence of documents which they are unable to furnish. It is a sorry state for the humanity. This situation can only get worse in the coming years with no solution or efforts on sight.
7. Mexico City, Mexico; 46,000 homeless
Mexico City is home to over more than 48,000 homeless people. The estimate of young children varies from 30% to 40%. It is definitely more than 16,000. The main cause is poverty and the drugs breaking up the families.
Young children are left to fend for themselves as they fall prey to drug abuse, drug traficking and prostitution rackets. It has been a great concern for UNICEF and other bodies interested in the welfare of children. The homeless live on the streets, public places, parks and even in drains and sewers. Many mishaps take place routinely and these homeless people are the victims.
6. Moscow, Russia; 50,000 homeless
Russia had been facing mass homelessness after World war II. The breakup of USSR, failed to have any impact for the betterment of the homeless in Russia. About 3.5% of Russian population is homeless. According to certain studies, the number of homeless in Russia is about 1.5 to 3 million. As per the policy of the state, permanent shelter has to be given for free to anybody who needs better living conditions or has no permanent residence. The right to shelter is still included in the constitution. However, this dream is yet to be realized.
The law also provide that nobody has the right to deprive a person of permanent residency without their will, even the owner of the apartment. This creates problems for banks giving loans. Banks are obliged to provide a new, cheaper flat for a person instead of the old one if the person fails to repay the loan.
5. Jakarta, Indonesia, 50,000 homeless
The homeless population in Jakarta swells up due to natural calamities like floods and hurricanes. In the past at times, it has crossed the mark of 220,000. However, the normal homeless population may exceed 50,000. The underlying cause is poverty, high cost of living and the cost of housing as well as joblessness. The homeless situation is worse in Jakarta among all the Asian countries.
4. Los Angeles, California, United States; 58,000 homeless
The number of homeless in Los Angeles amounts to 57.737 which is second only to New York in the US. Although the total population of the blacks in L.A. is only 9%, the majority of homeless are blacks. This simply means that more than half of the black population in L.A. is homeless. This speaks of the racial inequalities in a city as advanced and prosperous as Los Angeles. Los Angeles has more homeless veterans, both male and female than any other city in the US. Three-fourth of all homeless in Los Angeles lives on the street or public places.
The atrocious cost of housing makes it beyond the reach of the homeless. The city has plans to reduce the number of homeless by constructing community homes for the homeless.
3. Mumbai, India; 60,000 homeless
The government few years ago claimed that Mumbai has 57,415 homeless. This figure must have ballooned since then. According to the 2011 Census, there were 1.77 million homeless people in India. This is less than 1% of the country’s population. It is estimated that there are more than 400,000 street children. In Mumbai, due to migration from all over India, the population od street children is more than 30,000.
Homeless children under the age of 18 are subject to child abuse, forced labor like rag picking and sifting through garbage; illness, and drug addiction. They are denied their right to education and recreation. According to UNICEF, violence against children in India include neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and exploitation.
2. New York City, New York, United States; 74,000 homeless
The last authentic census of homeless people carried out in New York gives the figure of 73,523 homeless. It is a huge number considering that New York is the best city of the most powerful country in the world. More than a third of this number constitutes of children. New York spends more than $1.2 billion per year on rehabilitating the homeless, yet the problem is getting worse year after year.
According to The Coalition for the Homeless, in recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s. In March 2017, there were 61,936 homeless people, including 23,445 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. The number of homeless sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 76 percent higher than it was ten years ago.
According to research the primary cause of homelessness, particularly among families, is lack of affordable housing. Surveys have also identified the following major causes of homelessness: eviction; doubled-up or severely overcrowded housing; domestic violence; job loss; and hazardous housing conditions.
Thousands of unsheltered homeless people sleep on New York City streets, in the subway system, and in other public spaces. There is no accurate measurement of New York City’s unsheltered homeless population. Surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers. Studies show that the large majority of street homeless New Yorkers are people with mental illness or other severe health problems.
1. Manila, Philippines; 3.1 million homeless
According to a five-year old report of the World Bank, one-fourth of the population of Philippines lives below the national poverty line. According to another UN Habitat report around 44% of the urban population live in slums. According to a report by Homeless International, around 22.8 million of Philippinos reside in slums.
The capital city of Manila has the highest homeless population of any city in the world at 3.1 million out of which more than 70,000 are children. There are more than 1.2 million homeless children in Philippines and more than half are found in Manila.
These children are exposed to deadly diseases, drug abuse, and child prostitution. The older homeless face starvation and lack of health care. The situation is pathetic and deplorable, with the government unable to do anything much.
It is a difficult task to compile an authentic list of the top cities of the world with highest homeless population. There is no data available. The governments of every country, pushes these data under the carpet. This list has been taken from various sources. Data have been collated from those of the cities’ wherever available on the net. Some old data have been extrapolated to reflect the present status. Therefore, please take note of this disclaimer. These data are not very accurate, nor are they fully backed by an authentic source. No such complete and authentic data exist, or is readily available. The world needs to take note of this state of homelessness in the urban areas and take remedial steps.