To help our supporters better understand this global problem, we have sought to compile the latest available statistics on the challenges faced by people around the globe.
The last time a global survey was attempted – by the United Nations in 2005 – an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing (Habitat, 2015).
Getting an accurate picture of global homelessness is extremely challenging. Definitions of homelessness vary from country to country. Census data is typically collected based on household and, while most census data takes into account those living in shelters and receiving government aid, census takers struggle to count the “hidden homeless” – those who may be residing in inadequate settlements such as slums, squatting in structures not intended for housing, couch surfing with friends and family, and those who relocate frequently.
Besides poverty and food crisis, additional causes of homelessness are heavy rains and floods affecting thousands of people every year. In 2007, 40,000 people were displaced and 26,800 houses were destroyed due to the floods (IRIN News, 2008).
More than 15 million people in Egypt live in slum areas, of which 40% are located in Greater Cairo region (UN Habitat).
Experiencing rapid population growth and urbanisation, Guinea is struggling with providing sufficient housing. In 2012, only 31.5% of the population had shelter with permanent walls. Standard of living in the towns is low, with poor sewage management and rainwater drainage, and bad access to drinking water (Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 2013-2015).
The housing deficit is estimated at 40,000 units per year, and urbanisation keeps worsening the problem. In rural areas, many people live in temporary structures made of wood and mud, which require extensive maintenance and repair and which are often highly flammable.
Around 68% of the population live in slums (Urban Habitat, 2014).
There are around 250,000 people without homes in Nairobi alone (Street Children).
It is estimated that there are 250,000-300,000 children living and working on the streets of Kenya (IRIN News, 2007). In the slums of Nairobi, people live in illegal temporary structures which can be demolished at any time by the government. They rarely have sanitary facilities, although the standard of dwellings can vary between different slums.
In 2007, 63.8% of the population lived below the national poverty line (World Bank, 2014).
Landlords often charge exorbitant rates for accommodation in slums (OPIC, 2012). Many people live in slums, with no access to drinking water or sanitation services (IRIN News, 2009). Less than half of the capital’s population has some sort of permanent accommodation (OPIC, 2012).
More than 80% of the population lack adequate housing (UNDP, 2012). It is estimated that there are around 200,000 children constantly living in difficult housing circumstances. In Bamako, the census on homeless children revealed 4,348 homeless children, but unofficial estimates put the number much higher, up to 6,000 (FAFO, 2005). Internal conflict and international intervention in Mali in 2012 left around 260,000 Malians homeless (Bloomberg, 2012).
There are an estimated 24.4 million homeless people in Nigeria. This is a consequence of many factors, including rapid urbanisation and poverty (UNHCR, 2007), and currently mainly the terror by the terrorist group Boko Haram. Some 650,000 Nigerians were displaced internally due to the conflict and 70,000 more are refugees in neighbouring countries (UNHCR, 2014).
There is a housing deficit of 2.5 million homes, and 7.5 million South Africans lack access to adequate housing. Millions of those who do have homes live in small, wooden shacks built in informal settlements (IRIN News, 2007). Due to high commuting costs, many people who have homes on the periphery prefer to sleep in the streets of the large municipal inner cities where they work (Du Toit, 2010).
More than 32% of Togo’s population live in poverty (SOS Children’s Villages). According to AJDD, about 100,000 people are homeless in Togo, half of them residing in Lome solely. The regular floods in the region result in tens of thousands people displaced and vulnerable to homelessness every year (UFC Togo, 1999).
Homelessness has been growing steadily in urban areas since the 1980s. In 2000, an estimated 3% of the urban population was homeless (United Nations, 2000).
According to the 2014 Census provisional results, about half a million people counted had no household, which includes those living in hotels, institutions, and homeless or floating population.
Due to rapid urbanisation and poverty, Zambia is facing a serious shortage of housing. About 80% of houses are informal and have inadequate access to basic services (UN Habitat, 2008). About half a million young children live on the streets (SOS Children’s Villages).
In 2014, floods left around 20,000 people homeless (Floodlist, 2014).
The national housing shortage is estimated at more than 1 million, with more than 1.2 million people on the government’s national housing waiting list. In 2005, Zimbabwe’s governmental campaign to destroy illegal settlements (so called Operation “Murambatsvina,” or Drive Out Filth) left around 700,000 people homeless (PCM, 2005; IRIN News, 2013).
An estimated 105,000 people are homeless in Australia. Of those, 44% are female, 12% are children under the age of 12, and 25% are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. More than 30% of homeless people in Australia were born overseas (Homelessness Australia, 2009).
About 40% of the population lives in subsidised housing. Around 100,000 live in “coffin homes,” “cage homes” and on rooftops (Feeding Hong Kong, The Global Mail, 2013). An estimated 1,400 homeless people live in Hong Kong, with the primary cause being a lack of affordable housing (City University of Hong Kong, 2014).
India is estimated to be the home to 78 million homeless people, including 11 million street children (Business Standard, 2013; Slum Dogs). According to the 2011 census, there were 28% less homeless people from rural areas and 20% less homeless people living in the cities as compared to 2001 (Dr. Kumuda, 2014).
The authorities report around 2,000 people living on the streets, but it is estimated that there are another 1,000 whose cases have not been recorded. Because of the limited definition of homelessness, there are around 10,000 people in insecure housing conditions who do not meet the criteria for social housing (Haaretz, 2011).
An estimated 25,000 people are homeless in Japan, 5,000 of whom live in Tokyo (International Network of Street Papers, 2006). There are also around three million “Internet cafe refugees” who move from café to café each night.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been in influx of migrants from rural areas to big cities, such as Bishkek or Osh. About 70% of 5.4 million people in Kyrgyzstan live in substandard housing. In 2005, more than 30,000 people in Bishkek declared they were homeless (Habitat.org). Around 20 to 30% of the urban population live in illegal settlements, where they have no social and civil rights.
A quarter of the population lives below the national poverty line (World Bank, 2012). It is estimated that around 44% of the urban population live in slums (UN Habitat, 2008). The capital, Manila, has the largest homeless population of any city in the world – 3.1 million. An estimated 1.2 million children in the Philippines sleep rough, with 70,000 in Manila (IBT, 2014).
The South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare classified 4,921 people nationwide as homeless in 2012, up from 4,403 in 2011 and 4,187 in 2010 (Korean Herald, 2012). However, there are approximately 6,000 people who are residents of rental hostels, which significantly increases the number of homeless people (Osaka City University, 2009).
On the local level, the total number of homeless services users in 2009 in Vienna alone was 3,907. Numbers of services users have increased in Vienna and Salzburg over the past 15 years, but remained stable in Lower Austria (FEANTSA Country Fiche, 2014).
In 2010, 3,185 individuals used homeless accommodation services in Brussels, more than 8,600 people stayed in hostels or supported housing in Flanders, and an additional 5,000 homeless people are estimated to live in Wallonia (FEANTSA, 2012).
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The government does not keep any official records, but the number of homeless people is believed to be rising (Save the Children). A big problem are refugees and internally displaced persons, whose safe return has often not been granted – 70% of those who returned to the country after the war live on the edge of survival, and 143,000 of them are believed to be homeless, although they are often able to live with their relatives and friends due to the high level of solidarity across the country (SOS Djecija Sela, 2010).
In September 2013, 1,370 people were registered as homeless, but real numbers are believed to be higher, especially among Roma and immigrants (Tilburg University). The number of people using soup kitchens and food banks went up by more than 50% to the current rate of 16,982 (September 2013), including more than 1,200 children (Novinite, 2013).
Croatian Homeless Network reports that there are around 10,000 homeless people in Croatia. According to UNHCR (2015), there are almost 3,000 stateless (not necessarily homeless) persons in Croatia, and almost 20,000 people who constitute a population of concern and are socially vulnerable (such as refugees and asylum seekers).
In 2011, 5,290 people were registered as homeless in a given week. In 2010, more than 6,000 individuals stayed in homeless hostels (FEANTSA, 2012). However, experts estimate that 10,000 to 15,000 homeless people live in Denmark, about half of which are in the Copenhagen metropolitan area (Humanity in Action, 2001).
In 2013, 112,070 people declared themselves homeless in England. This is a 26% increase in four years. The number of people sleeping rough in London grew by 75% to a 6,437 in 2013 (Guardian, 2014).
In a single-day survey in 2011, the homeless population of Finland was 7,572. Since the 1980s, there has been a 50% reduction in the number of homeless people across Finland. There have been particular decreases in the number of long-term homeless people as a result of the national homelessness strategy (FEANTSA, 2012).
In 2012, around 103,000 adults in French cities used some form of emergency accommodation or soup kitchen. This number includes 30,000 children. Altogether, 141,500 people were homeless in France in 2012, which is almost a 50% increase from 2001 (INSEE, 2012).
In 2012, more than 284,000 people had nowhere to live, which is a 15% increase compared to 2010, and the numbers are expected to increase by an additional 30% to 380,000 by 2016 (Deutsche Welle, 2014). More than 15% of the people in assistance programs for homelessness were foreigners (Spiegel, 2013).
Approximately 15,000 people are homeless in Hungary, 50% of whom live in Budapest. Between 2006 and 2010, 131 homeless people died of cold or exposure in the capital. In the same period, the number of places at public shelters increased by a third, from 8,200 to 11,100 (The Economist, 2013).
According to the 2011 Census, 3,744 people were in accommodation providing shelter for homeless people and 64 people were sleeping rough. Focus Irelandestimates that there are around 4,500 people homeless at any given time. More than 65,600 people are considered to be unable to reasonably meet the cost of accommodation (FEANTSA, 2012).
During the economic crisis, the rate of homelessness tripled in Italy. In 2014, homelessness in Italy was estimated at 48,000 people, 70% of whom were sleeping rough (FEANTSA, 2012; Deutsche Welle, 2014). The 2012 Census showed that 59.4% of people in shelters for homeless people were immigrants. However, many immigrants and Roma people are not considered homeless since they live in informal settlements (FEANTSA, 2012).
Homelessness has been on the rise in Lithuania. The number of people in shelters for homeless people increased by 25% between 2005 and 2012. In 2012, 5,000 people were homeless on any given night. Approximately 70,000 people were waiting for social housing in 2012, a 4% increase from the previous year (FEANTSA, 2014).
In a single week in February 2006, 715 homeless people were identified in Luxembourg. A 2013 report counted 1,533 people using homeless services in the country. Youth and migrants are increasingly represented amongst the homeless population (FEANSTA, 2014).
In 2012, more than 27,000 people were homeless in the Netherlands. Around 50% of them were migrants and 40% come from non-Western countries. Nearly half of all homeless people are found in the biggest cities: Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, and Rotterdam (CBS, 2010).
Northern Ireland is experiencing the highest rates of homelessness in the United Kingdom, with 5.7% of adults saying they have experienced homelessness. There were 13.4 statutory acceptances of homelessness applications per 1,000 households compared to 2.3 in England, and in 2012/13, more than 19,400 households were reported to be homeless (Belfast Telegraph, 2014).
There were 6,259 homeless people in Norway in 2012, which corresponds to 1.26 per 1,000 people. Homelessness is more prevalent in large municipalities; 42% live in one of the four major cities: Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger (NIBR Report, 2013).
Most homeless people live in metropolitan areas such as Lisbon and Porto. Estimates in 2010 placed the homeless population at 3,000 people, but there is a lack of systematic statistics (FEANTSA, 2012).
Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, the number of homeless people has risen by 30% (Portugal News Online, 2011).
There is no national homelessness data collection strategy in Romania. The only study was conducted in 2004, when the homeless population was estimated 14,000 to 15,000 people (FEANTSA, 2012). In Bucharest alone, there were approximately 6,000 homeless people, including 1,000 children (Deutsche Welle, 2013).
According to the government’s estimates, five million people are homeless in Russia (3.5% of the population), one million of whom are children and 50,000 of whom live in Moscow (IBT, 2014). It is not clear whether these numbers include four million “invisible people” (those who do not possess registration or “propiska”). Winters are especially problematic for homeless people in Russia – in Saint-Petersburg alone, 1,042 homeless people died in the winter of 2012/13 (One Europe, 2014).
In 2013/14, 36,457 households made homeless applications to their local council in Scotland, a 34% decrease since 2009/10. Young people under 25 represent just under a third of applicants (Shelter Scotland, 2014). In 2014/15, homelessness applications fell as a result of homelessness prevention services rather than a change in the underlying social and economic factors that lead to homelessness (The Scottish Government, 2015).
The Ministry of Labour, Family, and Social Affairs estimated in their 2010 study that the number of homeless people ranged between 1,000 and 1,500, with 600 of them living in the capital, Ljubljana (Siol.net, 2012). However, at the end of 2014, the official estimates said there were more than 4,000 homeless people, excluding hidden homelessness (Svet 24, 2015).
It is estimated that there are around 40,000 homeless people and additional 1.5 million families living in shelters. However, the official figure is 23,000 homeless people. In 2012, 11.7 million people (3.8 million households) were affected by different processes of social exclusion, 4.4 million more than in 2007 (RAIS Fundación, 2014).
The 2011 count by the National Board of Health and Welfare identified 34,000 homeless people in Sweden. The count showed that overall homelessness had increased since 2005, but that fewer people were sleeping rough (National Board of Health and Welfare, 2011).
There are no official numbers regarding homelessness in Switzerland (Wilco, 2013). While homelessness is not very visible in the country, it does exist (The Guardian, 2014). Swiss Med Weekly reported in 2005 that the number of beds available for homeless people per night in the Canton Zürich increased between 2000 and 2003 by more than 17%.
In 2006, 85,000 people in Ukraine were estimated to be homeless (VIIW, 2010). Officially, there are around 12,000 homeless people in Kiev alone, but the numbers are believed to be much higher. In the winter of 2012, more than 100 homeless people died because due to freezing temperatures (IBT, 2012). The current conflict in Ukraine has left around 1 million people homeless (The Telegraph, 2015). The government is putting a special emphasis on reducing the numbers of street children.
It is estimated that more than 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a year, with more than 35,000 Canadians homeless on any given night. Between 13,000 and 33,000 Canadians are chronically homeless. The majority of homeless people stay in either emergency shelters or in some sort of provisional accommodation, while there are believed to be around 5,000 homeless people who are unsheltered (Homeless Hub, 2014). The first coordinated homelessness count will take place in 2016 (ESDC, 2015).
The municipality of San José estimates that more than 1,800 people are homeless. According to the official statistics, around 5,300 families lived in slums in 2009. In 2009, the earthquake left many families homeless and natural disasters pose a serious threat in terms of losing home (Habitat Costa Rica, 2010; The Tico Times, 2014).
People are left without homes primarily due to hurricanes. In 2004, one of the worst hurricanes in the history damaged 90% of the homes and left approximately 60,000 people (more than half of the population) homeless (Red Cross, 2004).
In 2013, the housing deficit in Honduras amounted for around one million homes (El Heraldo, 2014). Especially the number of street children has been growing constantly. Between 8 to 12% of all children (between 200,000 – 300,000 children) under the age of 18 are working or living on the streets (FCH, 2014). Nine out of ten children who live on the streets suffer different kinds of abuse (La Prensa, 2013).
UNITED STATES OF AMERIA
On a single night in January 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness. Homelessness has declined by 9% since 2007 (HUD, 2013). However, unofficial estimates of total homelessness range from 1.6 million to 3.5 (NCH, 2009), and in 2013, 2,483,539 children experienced homelessness (NCFH, 2014).
More than 12,000 people are homeless in Chile, 5,500 of whom live in Santiago (Santiago Times, 2014).
Paraguay’s housing deficit is growing, and in 2007, it was estimated at more than 800,000 units. Around 50% of homes in Paraguay suffer from inadequate conditions and 20% of them are situated in areas such as street curbs, parks, private property, or along rivers (Habitat for Humanity). In 2014, the floods left more than 200,000 people homeless (IFRC, 2014).
Of the country’s 30 million people, 30% live in poverty, with the figure higher than 55% in rural areas (CIA World Factbook). Nationwide, 5.6% of households are squatters, whereas in Lima, 8.1% of households live as squatters (Shelter 2.0). Earthquakes and floods further worsen the problem, leaving thousands of people homeless on a regular basis.
Most Venezuelans live in poverty, many of them in shanty towns around Caracas (BBC, 2015). There is a housing shortage of around two million units. In 2010, torrential rains that flooded Caracas neighbourhoods left tens of thousands of people homeless (Washington Post, 2012).
Street children are often the victims of street violence, crime, human trafficking, and drug-related activities (Aptekar and Stoecklin, 2014).