2007 reflected a new era in how we live on this planet. For the first time in history over half of humanity lives in cities and towns. By 2030 it’s estimated that this will grow to two thirds of the world’s population. This urbanisation translates into us needing to build 4,000 units of housing per hour until 2030 to meet demand.

Our world’s current slum-dweller population is estimated at approximately 1 billion, a third of the world’s urban population. 100 million of these people are estimated to be street children, the majority from Latin America, Asia and across Africa.

In Nairobi, Kenya's capital, 60% of the entire population lives in squatter settlements and slums.  That 60 per cent is crowded onto only 5 per cent of the land – without adequate shelter, clean water or decent sanitation.

Homelessness looks different is every city of the world. Many of us think of it as people that don’t have a home, living on the streets or in shelters. We forget that homelessness means lacking many things, like food, water, clothing and employment. Those of us who are homeless are also experiencing family separation, mental health problems, hygiene and medical care issues, not to mention the social stigma of being “homeless.”

A homeless person’s experience of the world is very insecure.

In Western Europe, during the winter of 2003, homeless levels were reported to be on par with those at the end of WWII with 3 million believed to be homeless.

In some of our world’s largest cities – Mumbai, Bangkok, Calcutta – each population over 10 million people – between one third and one half of all people live in slums.

Africa is also experiencing a crisis of homelessness. Mass evictions in Zimbabwe, in 2005 for example, saw half a million people become homeless; 150,000 of these were children.  Many thousands remain homeless today.

 The inheritance of poverty has meant that children are often the worst affected by homelessness, having been born into it. Among many dangers, these kids are at very high risk of HIV/AIDS due to intravenous drug use, sexual abuse and/or exploitation.

There are a known 11 million homeless children in India alone…

In Egypt, there are up to 1 million homeless children…

and …over 400,000 in Bangladesh…

… 250,000 in Kenya…

and …150,000 in Ethiopia…

And they’re just kids.

But homelessness is not confined to developing countries.

Across the US, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were 643,000 homeless persons nationwide on a single night in January 2009. Additionally, about 1.56 million people used an emergency shelter or a transitional housing program during 2008-2009. This number suggests that roughly 1 in every 200 persons in the US used the shelter system at some point in that period.

...Then scattered across Australia there are a further 100,000 homeless…

A safe place to sleep is something that many of us take for granted. We need to ask ourselves what we can do to help… how can we bring some kind of relief to this situation that hits all of us in the face every day?

For more info, visit:

UN Habitat (2007) ‘What are slums and why do they exist?’

UN Habitat (2007) ‘World Habitat Day 2007’

UN Habitat (2005) ‘Financing Urban Shelter; Global Report on Human Settlements’

UNESCO, Youth Exchange, ‘Homelessness; A Global Phenomenon’

UNESCO, Youth Exchange, ‘Street Children’

UN Habitat (2007) ‘World Habitat Day 2007,’ Pp2,
UN Habitat (2005) ‘The Housing Crisis,’ in Financing Urban Shelter
UN Habitat (2007) ‘World Habitat Day 2007,’ Pp12 
UNESCO, ‘Primary Education,’
UNESCO, Youth Exchange ‘Street Children,’
UNHABITAT (2007) ‘What are slums and why do they exist?’ Pp2
UNESCO, Youth Exchange , ‘Homelessness, A Global Phenomenon’
UNICEF (2005) ‘Zimbabwe: Mass evictions leave thousands of children homeless’
UN Habitat (2007) ‘Crime and Violence; facts and figures,’ Pp1
UNICEF, ‘Egypt’
US Department off Housing and and Urban Development Office of Community Planning and Development (2009) ‘The Fifth Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress,’ Ppii

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