News in Brief (02.04.2009) 

Photo of abandoned newspapers in an alley. The photo is in black and white.

Compiled by Jon Pattee from previously published reports. 

Global Warming Poised to Swell Homeless Ranks  

A new article in The Sunday Times highlights the looming problem of homelessness that looks set to strike hundreds of thousands of people around the world as sea levels rise. The Feb. 1 article by Christine Toomey focuses on the efforts of the island state of The Maldives to cope with rising tides that may inundate the entire country. But Toomey also notes that parts of densely populated countries such as Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, and Egypt that will also be drowned by rising sea levels. In Bangladesh alone, the article states, 17% of the country’s landmass is expected to be submerged in the next 40 years, making at least 20 million people homeless.  

Economic Woes Complicate Count of Homeless Americans  

The United States’ economic dive is complicating efforts to count the homeless, according to a Jan. 30 AP article by Evelyn Nieves. In the first major census of people living on the streets since the recession began, thousands of volunteers are trying to count the homeless in their communities. But the census does not count those staying with friends or relatives, or in hotels, garages, or other makeshift, inadequate housing. Some advocates say the biannual, federally mandated census will actually omit the majority of homeless people.  

“I call it the double trouble,” said Philip Mangano, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “You would have to be naive to believe that the loss of over 850,000 homes and over two million jobs wouldn’t have an impact.”  

Study Finds Race Affects Perceptions of US Homelessness  

Whites and African Americans have very different experiences on the streets, according to researchers cited in a Jan. 30 UPI article. Researchers at the University of California who studied 205 homeless youth in San Francisco found that the majority of white homeless youth there came from elsewhere in California and the US, while the African Americans were all born and raised in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.  

The study also found that 81 percent of whites reported being “literally” homeless, meaning they had no place meant for human habitation in the last month, compared to 37 percent of African Americans. In general, white youth seemed to embrace the label of “homeless” and showed poor hygiene, tattoos, and piercings, while African-Americans said homelessness was shameful and something that should be hidden at all costs, and emphasized the importance of appearing prosperous.  

Unemployment Spurs Growth of Homelessness in Spain  

Joblessness is spreading in Spain, and with it homelessness that is becoming a source of social tensions, according to a Jan. 15 Reuters article by Andrew Hay. The unemployed are losing their housing and eating in soup kitchens in Spain, where the global economic has pushed unemployment to levels not seen in any European country since the 1930s. “One day this place is going to explode,” unemployed waiter Miguel Roa, a Spaniard, told Hay. Since December, Roa said, he had lost his job and his home and watched his family split as economic crisis ended 14 years of growth in Spain.  

Nigerians Seek Justice in Home Demolitions Case  

In a bid to secure compensation for the demolition of their homes 19 years ago, residents of Maroko, a suburb of the Nigerian capital of Lagos, have taken their housing demolition case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Gambia. According to a Jan. 14 article on by Chinazor Megbolu, they seek compensation for the destruction caused by the military regime of that time. One leader in the move for compensation said that Maroko was reduced to rubble by bulldozers, with over 10,000 houses flattened and 300,000 people left homeless. He added that “innocent citizens went through this harrowing experience so as to satisfy the greed of a few elite whose residences have now sprung up in Maroko.”  

Migrants Fill New Irish Shelter’s Beds  

A new emergency homeless shelter that opened in Dublin city in January is housing a large proportion of people from Eastern Europe, according to a Feb. 2 article by Alison Healy in The Irish Times. The new 21-bed shelter was opened to “dissuade people from sleeping rough,” and looks to fill a gap for people reluctant to use hostels or shelters because of concerns about disclosing information to register. According to shelter staff, homeless people from abroad are more likely to sleep outside because many do not speak good English and had difficulty accessing services. 

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