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Slums: A Precarious In-Between

Although we cannot speak of ‘homelessness’ per say in the case of slums, we can certainly call it an "in-between". Precarious living conditions, poor sanitation, lack of an official address—these are just a few reasons that make living in a slum resemble homelessness.

Furthermore, in most cases, the land and the houses do not belong to the people who live there. Most cities do not map slums. Officially, they do not exist! Many governmental authorities merely tolerate their existence.

And when the living conditions in the slum deteriorate further, or that crime is on the rise, the response is simple and clear: the outright destruction of the affected part of the slum, if it is not the entire slum’s complete destruction. Real estate speculation is also part of the picture: hotels, golf courses or luxury apartments are far more valuable to local authorities.

Several organizations and missionaries struggle to improve living conditions in these places: to bring running water and electricity in the slum, or to rebuild safe homes.

In the Philippines, Urban Poor Associates (UPA)—based in Quezon City—is an NGO supported by international partners, including Development and Peace. According to this organization, nearly 51,000 families were resettled in the city, or were able to remain in their homes, thanks to negotiation efforts and media coverage of their case in newspapers, on the radio and even on Manila’s television network.

However, the situation remains difficult. Thus, UPA has reported that in 2011, 744 families and 73,780 people were evicted throughout 39 demolition "incidents". According to the NGO, it is the highest rate of evictions since 1994, and 92% of these were illegal under local laws.

Elsewhere, governments, such as those of Morocco and Algeria, take steps to eliminate these areas and relocate the residents.

Even the great and beautiful city of Paris once had its slum, the story of which the Fourth World Movement recalls through a blog.

Still rising

According to UN Habitat, the UN agency for housing issues, there will be 2 billion people living in slums in 2030.


Interesting Links

UN-Habitat, reflecting on the need for effective housing policies

A UN-Habitat PDF file named Building Urban Safety Through Upgrading Slum

Blog on the Quezon City slum in the Philippines

Short story of a struggle and a destruction in 2010 (in French)

Point of view of a lay missionnary in Kenya (in French)

Short video that gives an idea of a slum’s interior, and a “bright” idea! (in Filipino, subtitled in English)!

Bombay, India:
One of the largest slum in the world (12 million people)
Women comment on their lives in the slum (TV5) (subtitled in French)


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