By Sujata Jena, SS.CC.
Manila, August 9, 2019: With 3.1 million people with no place to live, Manila is home to the world’s largest homeless population. Among them are 70,000 children.
These homeless are seen in the streets of Metro Manila — around shanties, near bridges, on sidewalks, pavements, at bypasses, in abandoned buildings, vehicles and around churches, and even in cemeteries. They are everywhere!
They are scavengers, ragpickers, construction workers, sampagita or jasmine flower sellers, car park attendants, jeepney barkers, or tricycle drivers. During day some beg for loose change or food at every door, in churches or charitable centers.
At night their home is a box made of flattened tin cans in a small hovel in the middle of a crowded slum in Manila, a kariton or push cart, atop of a tomb, in front of stores, nearby creek-dirt garbage, under bridges and so on.
There have no public water supply or electricity. Their restroom is behind the lamp post. The stink is a daily punishment for being alive and poor in the Philippines.
The Philippines has about 4.5 million homeless in a population of about 106 million, according to the government statistics. The capital city holds a sort of record in the world.
At the same time, nearly 115,000 units of public housing are empty across the country, according to rights group Kadamay.
Poverty is the main reason. Around 25 percent of Filipinos live below the poverty line. They opt to stay in the city because the place provides them a means to survive on a daily basis.
Many depend on “Pagpag” – leftovers thrown out by restaurants, a feast for the poor in the city.
The hungry and homeless hunt for their food or line up at the city’s charitable feeding centers every day. They already know where to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Eduard De Luna, the president of E.C De Luna Construction Firm, shares his blessing with the scavengers and homeless. The center feeds the destitute on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 6 to 8 pm in his center.
Sacred Heart Shrine Parish of the Divine Word priests’ provides food for the homeless on Fridays. Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Rosary provides free meal on Mondays.
A group of Black Nazarene devotees started distributing three meals to a number of people on Fridays as an act of mercy and compassion that comes from their devotion to the Black Nazarene child Jesus.
St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center of the Divine Word priests offers the homeless of the area the chance to find their dignity. It provides meals from Monday to Friday. They also give education to the homeless children.
Sta. Cruz Church, Immaculate Conception Church, Sta. Domingo Church are other churches providing food for the homeless.
These centers serve in particular areas that they exist and not to the vast majority of the poor and homeless have access to these.
However, it reiterated that alms giving especially on the streets is not aligned with responsible help as it only poses more dangers to homeless families.
Besides food the poor have other necessities in life. Most of them are sick. They suffer from infectious disease like hepatitis, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, asthma due to weak immune system, poor nutrition and hygiene. They survive of heart and lung diseases due to exposed to the heat and rain constantly.
With the given situation barely, they can raise their families on their own. Children turned into stunted, malnourished. They are unable to attend schools.
“To fully respond to the problem, we need to get to know the homeless and determine the reasons why they are on the streets. It is unjust to simply dismiss them as lazy and that this is the primary reason why they are on the streets. Many of them are victims of circumstance,” The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Emmanuel Leyco said.
More people move to the cities as they lose their homes and lands to highways and industries. Poverty and unemployment are other main reasons for moving out to the cities.
“The government has barely scratched the surface in combating the issue. The only anti-poverty scheme of the government, the 4ps (Pantawid Pamilyang, Pilipino Program) hardly benefited the extreme poor and homeless. To date, the are 4,071 beneficiaries of 4Ps compared to the number at large, according to the DSWD.
“To fully respond to the problem, we need to get to know the homeless and determine the reasons why they are on the streets. It is unjust to simply dismiss them as lazy and that this is the primary reason why they are on the streets. Many of them are victims of circumstance,” DSWD Secretary Emmanuel Leyco said.
Poverty and Homeless numbers will continue to rise in the country unless the government introduces mainstream programs, such as food and income security, medical aid, social security disability insurance, which would provide a critical boost towards combating poverty and homelessness.