Homelessness With a Different Definition

Homelessness With  a Different DefinitionHomelessness With  a Different Definition

While many officials believe that homelessness is a common condition occurring in both developed and developing countries, actually it is not the case, said Dr Alireza Sharifi Yazdi, sociologist and a member of the Family Research Institute at Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University.

“In other words, what we call homelessness in Iran is completely different with its namesake condition in developed countries,” the Persian-language newspaper ‘Iran’ quoted him as saying.  

Almost all homeless people in developing countries such as Iran are socially excluded individuals or people with unfavorable economic conditions.

Homelessness is commonly defined as the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing. The legal definition of homeless varies from country to country, or among different jurisdictions in the same country or region.

“Many jobless people in Iran who have migrated from small towns and villages to metropolises to seek employment as well as drug addicts who have been rejected by their families, end up living on the streets. Actually they are forced to live on the streets,” the expert said.

In western countries, however, homelessness is by choice, not a forced condition; and specific organizations including municipalities are responsible to provide basic services to the homeless.

“Although in developed economies many services to the homeless are designed for men, and are inappropriate for homeless women and their children, currently such services are lacking in Iran,” Yazdi noted.

In the developed world, specific organizations take the responsibility to provide accommodation and basic services to those people whose economic conditions are very bad and who would not want to live on the streets.

The latest 2015 Human Development Index (HDI) report suggests that Iran has climbed six steps in the human development indices and is positioned at 69 out of 188 countries worldwide.

 Women and Street Children

Meanwhile, the number of homeless is growing and there are 20,000 homeless people on the capital’s streets alone, among them 5,000 women, an increase from the year 2013 when the figures were 13,000 and 3,000, respectively.

There are also a large number of street children in the capital. Non-governmental organizations put figures at 200,000, with half of them thought to be Afghan refugees.

Although homeless people are found in several streets across the city, most of them are concentrated in Tehran Municipality districts 7, 12 and 16, particularly in the Saffar Harandi neighborhood in south Tehran.

According to official figures, the crime rate by Iran’s homeless is at least 8-fold higher than the other segments of the population. Also, homeless children are more likely to be infected by diseases such as HIV.

Addiction experts say that it is often after the start of using illegal drugs that women end up homeless and on the streets, sooner than men.

 Victims of Assault

“Our latest survey indicates that almost all homeless women have been victims of sexual assault during their first 48 hours of living on the streets. Many young homeless people are deceived and later trapped into illegal networks,” Yazdi said.

Several official organizations receive government funding to tackle homelessness, including the Tehran Municipality, the State Welfare Organization, and the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

Yazdi urged municipalities, the SWO, Iran Police and other related organizations to improve collaboration to be able to better reduce homelessness. Head of State Welfare Organization (SWO) Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei last year announced the establishment of a drug rehabilitation center for addicted mothers and their children.

Since May 2015, thousands of volunteers all over Iran are helping to eliminate homelessness through a group called ‘Payane Kartonkhabi,’ (literally meaning the end of sleeping in cardboard boxes), in a reference to the homeless.