Homelessness is a global pandemic that spans every society and country and continuous to derail people’s quality and decency of life and their potential to economic empowerment. Governments, social organizations and individuals must all jointly and severally tackle this problem to bring a lasting solution to it. It has been proven over time that homelessness will not improve by itself without concrete community, national, regional and global agenda to mitigate and militate it. In 2005, the United Nations estimated that there were 100 million homeless people worldwide. This number jumped to 1.6 billion people lacking adequate housing in 2015 representing 15 times increase over 10 years. The deterioration is simply staggering.
Homelessness was once considerably less visible half a century ago as 70% of the world’s population of 2.5 billion was spread out across rural areas. Housing problems, far removed from urban centers, were largely unnoticed. Today, 55% of the world’s population of 7.6 billion is concentrated in urban centers. Homelessness has become a more serious and noticeable issue.
Multiple factors contribute to homelessness. The most prominent one is people not being able to get affordable housing due to a lack of living wage caused by unemployment and underemployment. People with developmental disorders and mental illnesses often become homeless due to lack of a family and friend support structure and lack of treatment for their problems. Many people become homeless due to the fallout from a physical illness or injury. The exorbitant cost of healthcare and medical debt and discontinuation of employment income could lead to bankruptcy. Running away from abuse often results in homelessness. Many people become homeless due to sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.
There are currently around 12,000 homeless people in Chile, half in the capital city of Santiago. According to a study conducted by the Ministry for Social Development in 2011, 77% of Chile’s homeless population have jobs, yet struggle to afford accommodation.
Chile is one of South America’s most economically developed nations. Yet inequity and market driven approach to housing for vulnerable groups has contributed to the segregation of people in Chile based on socio-economic status, according to the UN expert.
Homelessness forms part of a wider poverty issue in a country which has little in the way of a welfare state. There is no national health service in Chile and its education system is largely privatised. Minimum wage in Chile is around 193,000 pesos (410 US dollars) a month. It is impossible to live on that salary.
Half of the country’s students attend schools costing parents on average 400 US dollars a month – just under the minimum wage. Consequently, many families on lower incomes struggle to cope and are pushed into poverty.
Forest fires and earthquake in recent years have made the situation worse. Homelessness is common following natural disasters. Those who face displacement after a natural disaster are given more assistance than those facing homelessness from other causes, but many times victims of natural disaster are left waiting for help that may never be given.
Praying for Chile
– Pastor Alex Chan
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before Your throne of grace to intercede for the nation of Chile. We ask for Your Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of the people there so that they may be receptive to Your love. May Your hope and light shine in areas of brokenness and darkness. Please continue to unite and strengthen your church. Equip and send your people to practically serve and care for the least of these. Holy Spirit, guide us to reach the unreached and marginalized. Let the restored and redeemed glorify Your Name. May every knee bow before You and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord!
If you are interested in knowing more about RHCCC’s PEACE program in Chile or would like to participate in this ministry, please contact Alex Chan.