Compassion for the Homeless

Blog Entry 1- MimiI take the train to the WYAAP office every day. And every day my heart breaks at the sight of the slums by the terminal station.

Don’t we all call this Earth OUR home? Why then don’t all families have a decent place to live in? Why do we have to buy our lands and houses?

Tracing world history, in the earliest times during the Primitive Era, people lived without any kind of shelter. They used to live in tents they made out of tree branches and leaves, or in caves. Then certain civilizations arose in the river valleys, and they developed new techniques of building using wood, stone and clay. That eventually became more complex as time passed. It also gave way to what we know as the “landlord system” where peasants depended on the “wealthier” and more “powerful” landlords for protection.

Then I thought, if the landlord system did not come to be, would there be informal settlers in today’s society? If our modern lifestyle was as simple as that of the earliest civilizations would we have healthier communities for all families, communities where everyone has a home to live in without worrying about its financial constraints?

Housing is one of the basic needs of man and is also one of his basic human rights. Aside from the obvious fact that families need shelter to keep them dry and safe during the bad weather, a house is a place where the family is nurtured. It is a place where the child is raised. It is a place where people grow together. The home becomes the foundation for the family’s shared sense of purpose while providing a springboard for each member to pursue his or her own goals.

I have learned from one of the chapters in our Track A Training that “a house should not just be a machine for living but it must be a functional house.” Many families who live in the slums lack access to water and sanitation. WYA believes that the family is the primary cell of every society. Every family needs to be protected. Every family needs a fortress of safety. But many low-income people can afford shelter only in old and nearly worn-out buildings or worse, are left with no choice but to dwell informally. I think that governments should create policies ensuring that every family has access to affordable housing. It is important to ensure that there are affordable housing options for families and individuals in need for generations to come.

In the Philippines, for instance, the government constructed relocation sites for the informal settlers. However these sites are very far from the people’s places of work, of worship, and even from the market or schools. I’ve also read and watched the news about how these houses are not of good quality and can easily be destroyed by rain.

It is definitely not enough to provide houses for the homeless just for the sake of saying that something was done. Rather, it is important to remember that every person should live in a community that can cater to all his basic needs. And not just that, he should be able to afford it as well.

In order for a nation to be fully developed, no one should be left behind. Each one of us—especially those in positions of national leadership—needs to be alarmed with the growing number of people who have become homeless. But the answer, especially for our policy makers, is not to devalue the people of this earth. The answer is to recognize that humans are all born with intrinsic and inviolable dignity, and this dignity shall provide every person their basic human rights. We need to have compassion for those who are helpless to fight poverty.

The family is the basic unit of society, and in order for us to grow as a developed nation, every smaller unit should be well taken care of. I am still hopeful that one of the Millennium Development Goal targets, “a city without slums,” can be accomplished.

I thank the World Youth Alliance for empowering a youth like me to act as a voice for the homeless. I advocate the creation of policies with regards to housing aid for these people in the hopes that every citizen can truly live in a secure condition. Transforming rural communities can ensure that every citizen everywhere has a progressive and sustainable future that will lead to the development of every nation. No one should be left out. If we are to ensure that no one is left behind in the future development agenda, we need to determine whether progress is really reaching these marginalized groups.

By Emiku Namkoong, intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office. To read more about WYA’s view on sustainable development, you may check our website.