“Why do we have many homeless Nigerians roaming the streets?” That was the question that kept forming on my lips as I drove through Ojuelegba at the wee hours of a serene Sunday. The number of homeless Nigerians I sighted under the bridge at Ojuelegba as I drove passed it on a day that was declared Workers day was alarming.
In Nigeria, homelessness, unemployment and poverty are closely related. In fact the trio presently sit on a keg of gunpowder. This article analyzes the circumstances that lead to this social malady.
It is rare that a person would become homeless for just one reason, however, poverty is a common thread among nearly everyone who experiences homelessness.
In the society we are today, a man can live in a spacious, well-furnished rented apartment today, yet sleep under the bridge the next day. With the rate of unemployment hitting hard at Nigerians, anyone can turn from having a place to call home to becoming homeless. Not all homeless Nigerians found under the bridge or roaming around the street planned to be homeless. Some homeless Nigerians start out with jobs and stable residences, but then social and economic factors intervene, causing a rapid change in their living condition. Others find themselves on the street as a result of environmental disaster.
Another unlikely reason for homelessness is domestic violence. Some women and children that are found roaming the streets today are homeless because they are victims of domestic violence.
To put it plainly, domestic violence is the single most quoted reason for women becoming homeless, although physical or mental health problems lead to many women being homeless too. Women who have become homeless after fleeing an abusive relationship are especially vulnerable to experiencing further abuse .
Robbed of their own financial and emotional resources, women with violent partners sometimes must choose between being abused at home and becoming homeless. Women who leave with their children are survivors, but even in the safety of a shelter, rebuilding, gaining stability, and establishing a healthy network of relationships takes time.
A few Nigerians are homeless due to the wrongdoings of their supposed loved ones; this is in regards to those that have been forced out of their homes due to chronic or infectious diseases, mental illness and disabilities.
On a much deeper level, ethnic disturbances, disputes and insurgency have been responsible for some cases of homelessness
Invariably, the two biggest factors driving homelessness are poverty and the lack of affordable housing. Many Nigerians live from hand to mouth. As for the ‘employed’ especially civil servants, their salaries are usually used up in advance even before they get paid by the end of the month. This implies that at the end of the month they are eventually left with no salary. This ugly situation leaves most civil servants with no form of savings in the bank, hence giving landlords a field day with threats of an eviction.
Some Nigerians do take salary advance at their place of work to avoid being thrown out of their place of abode when their rent expires.
Losing a job and being unemployed happens much more readily today than it did a few decades ago, when most people worked for the same company until retirement. The decline in manufacturing jobs, outsourcing of jobs to other countries, and an increase in temporary and part-time employment has nicked away at the foundations of what was once a more stable job market. Worse still, the Nation’s universities churn out thousands of graduates annually, yet there is no provision in terms of employment opportunities for the teeming number. The thousands then join the millions who still roam the street for white collar jobs thereby complicating an already complex situation.
Jobs today are not only far less secure than they were in the past, but many also pay less when considering the rate of inflation yearly. Although the government offers some low-income housing, the numbers of reasonably priced dwellings have been dwindling over the years. All these factors have contributed to the increase in the number of homeless Nigerians over the years.
It’s difficult to pinpoint with any accuracy just how many people are homeless in this country because of the transient nature of the population. On any given day, the numbers of people in shelters or on the streets can shift, sometimes radically, as people move from place to place or find more permanent housing and eviction notices are on the increase.
Also, some homeless people live in non-traditional places, such as cars, uncompleted buildings, parks or camp grounds, where they are not easily found.
Nobody ever chooses homelessness; it is a devastating experience for individuals and for families. It disrupts virtually every aspect of family life, damaging the physical and emotional health of family members, interfering with children’s education and development, and frequently resulting in the separation of family members. Homeless people are often lonely and disconnected.
For many people, there’s no single event that results in sudden homelessness. Instead, homelessness is due to a number of unresolved problems building up over time.
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