According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, an estimated 150 million people around the world are considered homeless. Of those, almost half are children.
It's not only in developing countries or war-torn cities. Some of the most so-called glamorous cities, known for their rich and famous, have the largest homeless populations. People end up without shelter for a number of reasons. Reasons include:
- job loss
- home foreclosure
- natural disaster
- substance abuse
- domestic violence
- mental illness (including depression)
- lack of affordable housing
A recent story out of New York exemplified the problem. Residents of a Park Avenue co-op (one of the wealthiest addresses in the world), complained that a homeless man was camping out and making a pest of himself in front of their multi-million dollar apartments.
They wanted him gone, arrested, out of their sight. There was no care or interest taken, and no help given.
The social services in most cities are lacking, to say the least. They slap a band-aid on the problem, giving the illusion that something was done.
In stark contrast, Finland has basically eradicated its homeless population through politicians, government agencies, and citizens working together. They developed a step by step process to permanently house homeless individuals and work with them to get medical care, work, and independence.
Unfortunately, not every country is Finland. Many cities around the world are ravaged by the crisis. Read on for the 20 worst cities for homelessness in the world.
Keep in mind, cities are ranked based on the overall population and the number of homeless individuals.
Here are the 20 Worst Cities For Homelessness In The World:
20. Tampa, Florida
The year 2022 saw a 50% increase in the homeless population in the city of Tampa. There were 1600 homeless individuals accounted for in the city last year. Rapid inflation and unemployment are cited as the causes.
Many people have jobs, but simply cannot afford housing. Campgrounds in Tampa are common places for homeless people to stay.
19. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon accounts for about 50% of Portugal's homeless population. With a total population of 545,900, there are 4,800 unhoused people in the city. The average paycheck in the city is $848, while the average rent is $1,000.
People blame inflation, the invasion of Ukraine, and fewer people donating to charity as some of the causes.
18. San Diego, California
With a total population of 1.8 million, San Diego had an average of 8,800 people living in the streets or in temporary shelters. In the downtown area, tents line the streets. The causes are said to be rent increases, inflation, Covid, and lack of social services for people with addiction disorders.
17. Rome, Italy
Known for its international style and glitz, Rome also has a homeless population of 7,700. The average unhoused person in Rome is a middle-aged, previously married and fully employed male.
Many of them struggle with mental illness and substance disorders. Most of the homeless population in Rome live in the train stations and tent villages.
16. Seattle, Washington
Local officials in Seattle have called the homeless issue in their city a "crisis" and blame the lack of affordable housing. Others blame gentrification, lack of services for children aging out of the foster care system, and substance disorders.
Of the city's 737,000 residents, 11,700 are homeless. Most of them live in parks, near viaducts, and wooded areas.
15. Athens, Greece
Known for its natural beauty, Greece is a Mediterranean country with a substantial number of homeless people. 50% of the country's homeless population lives in Athens and numbers approximately 20,000 people.
While many of these people have substance disorders or mental illness, many are refugees. There is also a rising number of what Greece calls "new homeless." These are people with degrees that previously worked in companies that shut down during the pandemic or could not survive the post-pandemic.
14. Dublin, Ireland
The capital of Ireland has a population of 553,000. Approximately 5,530 of them are homeless. During the 1990s, most homeless people were men with addiction disorders. Now almost 40% are families, while others are children that have aged out of the foster care system. Lack of affordable housing, poverty, unemployment, and discrimination are cited as the causes.
13. Damascus, Syria
The government of Syria does not keep track of its homeless population. Couple that with the daily occurrences in the country, it's difficult to pin a total on the number of homeless people in Damascus. However, it's estimated to be around 50,000 on any given day.
This is due to the long raging war, air strikes, and violence that displaces people and sends them to the city looking for refuge. There was recently an earthquake that displaced another 50,000 thousand people in the country. So, even more people will likely migrate to Damascus.
12. San Francisco, California
San Francisco has a population of 874,000 thousand and approximately 10,300 homeless people. While politicians blame the lack of affordable housing, many others blame the laws and services that they claim draw homeless people to the city.
After one month of residency, unhoused people are eligible for up to $869 a month. As one homeless man from Louisiana stated, "they pay you to homeless in San Francisco."
11. Budapest, Hungary
With a population of 1.8 million, Hungary's capital city has an estimated 10,000 homeless people. Several years ago, the government made it illegal to be homeless. However, to date, only 4 people have actually been jailed. Most people get police warnings.
It is not uncommon for homeless people to die of hypothermia in Budapest. People blame job loss and the pandemic for the rise in homelessness in the city.
10. Sao Paulo, Brazil
In São Paulo, homelessness has grown 31% since the start of the Covid pandemic. An estimated 30,000 people are without homes in the city. In addition to the pandemic, people blame inflation and unemployment. The government is in the process of developing a campground for homeless people where they will have access to bathrooms and laundry facilities.
9. Buenos Aires, Argentina
With a population of over 15 million, Argentina's capital city has a homeless rate of 6.5% (approximately 190,000). Children account for 30% and seniors make up 13%. Overall, the country has about 5 million homeless people. Economic inflation is what most people blame for the high rate of homelessness. Gas prices have risen by 77%, electricity 46%, and water by 26%.
8. Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia. Its population of 10 million, is known for being tech savvy and heavy users of social media. Yet they have approximately 1400 "slum" areas. Typically, near the riverside, these areas have no sanitation, electricity, and are made from cardboard, plywood, and trash. About 30,000 people live in the area, while another 1300 sleep out on the streets.
7. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City has a population of 9.2 million and has an estimated 30,000 people that are considered homeless. 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, 50% of those are children. The main causes are simply not having the financial means to gain affordable housing and natural disasters. Many people make shelter out of tin, cardboard, and debris.
6. Moscow, Russia
According to government officials, only 14-15,000 of Moscow's 12 million residents are homeless. However, the last count done by an independent human rights organization had it at 64,000. That count was from over a decade. The estimate now is anywhere from 1-3 million.
The Russian government allegedly manipulates the data because they don't want the rest of the world to know they have a problem. At any rate, it's extremely difficult to be homeless in Moscow. The winters are brutal and there are not enough shelters to go around. So people often stay in abandoned buildings and build shelters from trash.
In Russia, if you have lost your paperwork (identification), you cannot get any type of assistance with shelter, food, or medicine.
5. Los Angeles, California
Once the place where people flocked for fame and fortune, it has now become a Mecca of despair and hopelessness. Of its 3.9 million residents, an estimated 67,000 are without permanent housing.
Most of these people are males who's average age is 40. Though in the past 2 years there's been a 6.5 increase in homeless women and senior citizens. Over 12,000 people a night seek refuge in shelters or hotels thanks to social service vouchers.
An estimated 40% of homeless LA residents suffer from some form of mental illness. Another 31% have addiction disorders. Often the two issues co-exist, making it difficult for assistance to be given.
4. Kanpur, India
In Kanpur, 18 out of every 1,000 people are homeless. A total of 81,877 of the 3.2 people lack decent housing. India defines homelessness as people that stay on pavement, staircases, railroads, roadsides, temples, and pipes.
Most people prefer to stay outdoors rather than go to shelters in Kanpur, because they describe them as being filthy and filled with human waste. They are also just as cold as being outdoors during the areas' frigid winters.
The main cause of homelessness in this part of India is said to be migration. People move from rural areas after losing land, or looking for work and clean water. When they get to the city, they aren't able to find jobs.
3. New York City, NY
With its population of 8.5 million people, New York City's homeless numbers are presently higher than they've been since the Great Depression. Currently there are a reported 68,884 people living on the streets or in temporary shelters in the city. 22,800 of these are children. These numbers are 39% higher than a decade ago.
A survey of unhoused people cited the following reasons:
- lack of affordable housing
- job loss
- domestic violence
- mental illness
- addiction disorders
The current mayor of New York City has acknowledged the problem and has stated he plans to address it. His plans, however, have thus far been inconsistent. Suggesting everything from compassionate assessment to involuntary commitment and issuing summonses.
When the homeless people of New York are not staying in shelters or temporary housing, they can be found taking shelter in train stations, subways, vestibules, and doorways.
2. Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria has a total of 108 million homeless people. In Lagos, a city of 14 million, the rate of homelessness is estimated to be around 300,000. Up to 70% of them live in "informal settlements" or squatter settlements.
Most of the problems in Lagos stem from the government wanting to make a mega city. This has led to the forced eviction of tens of thousands of people, to make room for new construction. No help or alternative housing is offered to people and they often cannot afford to rent or buy homes anywhere else.
1. Manila, Phillipines
With a population of 3.1 million, the city of Manila has 70,000 homeless people. The highest rate in the world. Many of these people are children that escaped abusive homes, only to find lives of prostitution and disease on the streets.
It is said that when the Pope visited Manila, the children were rounded up and placed in cages. Officials stated they did not want the Pope exposed to beggars. The main causes of the homeless crisis in the Philippines capital city are:
- poverty (5.3% are unemployed and 16% work for pay below the poverty line)
- domestic violence (1 in 5 women have reported domestic abuse in Manila)
- human trafficking (women and children are lured to the city with promises of jobs)
- natural disasters (earthquakes and typhoons have destroyed 500,000 dwellings since 2019)
Families make up 75% of families that live and make their living on the streets. Some people panhandle, while others collect scraps, or sell goods they have made.
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Written by Lily Wordsmith
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