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· Volume II Issue IV

We see numerous people lying on the sidewalks, knocking at doors, stopping vehicles on the road to ask for some coins, living under the bridge, abandoned, and experiencing hunger. It was always poverty and homelessness, the huge problem that makes our Filipino's lives worst.

According to the projections done by the World Bank (WB), the poverty incidence in our country fell below 20 percent for the year 2020 and further decline until 2021, a year before President Rodrigo Duterte's term ends. And from their latest report, the poverty rate is further declining to 19.8 percent in 2020 and 18.7 percent in 2021. On the other hand, the effects of the pandemic seen in Social Weather Stations' (SWS) most recent hunger survey. Based on their data, the percentage of Filipinos who were involuntarily hungry in May 2020 (16.7% or 4.2 million families) almost doubled since December 2019 (8.8% or around 2.1 million families). The highest number since September 2014 (22.8% or 4.8 million families). It means the increase in involuntary hunger was clearly due to the pandemic, particularly the lockdown that sought to manage the virus.

Although the Philippines' poverty rate is at a decline, a significant fraction of the population remains homeless. With over 106 million people, 4.5 million people are homeless, with three million homeless people residing in Manila. These numbers show that homelessness in the Philippines is the main issue for the country. President Rodrigo Duterte announced a month-long quarantine in Manila after a rise in new COVID-19 cases last March 2020. The combined impact of COVID-19 and lockdown has further worsened the homeless people's battle for survival.

People think poverty and homelessness occur to lazy people with no dreams and vision, but the problem is much more than that. Children, lone parents, disabled people, and people in households are much likely to experience these social issues and will be remained longer and deeper experience poverty and homelessness than others. According to Asian Development Bank, the major cause of poverty in our country is low economic growth, a weak agricultural sector, increased population rates, and a high volume of inequality. The causes of homelessness are insufficient income, or lack of a stable job, domestic violence, and loss of home due to a natural disaster. Because of these factors, there are a lot of effects of poverty and homelessness in the Philippines that make it difficult for people to live in such circumstances.  

Homelessness and poverty are related to each other. Homelessness is an extreme sign of poverty, and living in poverty can cause stress and trauma that can lead to a breakdown. Unfortunately, most Filipino people are currently experiencing this kind of situation. They are considered needy because they are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, child care, health care, and education. So, when limited resources cover only some of these necessities, difficult choices are made. Often, people choose to drop housing because it consumes a large amount of income.

In our country, the government has policy programs to reduce poverty and homelessness and help those in need. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) is a national government human development policy that distributes conditional cash payments to the poorest of the poor to enhance the health, nutrition, and education of children aged 0 to 18. It helped to reduce poverty by 25 percent. Meanwhile, the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Homeless Street Families program (MCCT-HSF) is a program that provides financial assistance to homeless families in Metro Manila that includes housing grants and funding for health and education. 

Throughout the years, we had a hard time battling these social issues. As reality becomes cruel, let us seize this opportunity to challenge our thinking and promote a social culture that calls for a shift in foundational support that is now clearly within our collective capacity and reaches. What we need is to shift from pity to compassion. We should turn from answering questions to questioning ourselves. By raising our hands, we can begin to make demands on all of our elected officials. Because now, we know what to do, and it’s time for a change.