Homelessness; A Phenomenon that Implies Various Risks

Street families whose pain has been aggrieved by war
Mohammad Abdullah
February 5, 2024

Homelessness; A Phenomenon that Implies Various Risks

Street families whose pain has been aggrieved by war
Mohammad Abdullah
February 5, 2024

Vagrants can be noticed sleeping on the streets, living under bridges and on the sides of sidewalks, jeopardizing their health in the cold Sana'a winter, which witnessed a record severity during the recent season. Homeless people of all ages; Young and elderly people, some of whom are fleeing domestic violence, and others who cannot rent housing or find a shelter for them. Thus, there are many circumstances and various reasons behind their homelessness, but what is certain is that they are all people who have been let down by life and abandoned by society to face an inhumane fate alone.

In a related context, a source in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSAL) in Sana'a confirmed to Khuyut that the state did not provide any assistance to this group, and that in light of the deteriorating social conditions the country is witnessing in all services due to the war, the conditions of the street persons are getting worse. Especially children and the elderly who are forced to work on the streets in order to secure a living, away from their families and expose to outdoor risks including harsh weather and hunger.

In addition, the source believes that the homeless crisis is deepening due to the lack of official plans or strategies to encounter the phenomenon and provide shelters and the necessary needs to preserve their dignity.

Displaced Yemenis sleep on the sidewalks of the streets of Sana'a

Leaning against a fragile wall

Omar Al-Shamiri talked to Khuyut about the beginning of his vagrancy: “I found myself homeless on the street, without shelter or food. My situation was getting more complicated day by day, due to a financial dispute with one of my business partners at the time". He said

"Since then, I have lost all opportunities to return home and all my attempts to escape the specter of homelessness have been shattered and went to no avail, and here I am living on the street, leaning against the walls of the Ministry of Finance, relying on donations and charitable assistance.” He added.

Al-Shamiri also confirmed that he has been cut off from communicating with his family for more than 15 years, and that he still receives news of his family through people coming from his village located in Taiz Governorate. Al-Shamiri, 41 years old, is one of thousands of homeless people whose numbers are increasing, some of whom hold university certificates and high educational degrees. 

Adel Al-Sharjabi, professor of sociology at Sana'a University, spoke to Khuyut about this phenomenon: “This problem has worsened and expanded, so that we are now talking about what we can call: street families not just individuals, meaning that there are entire families living in the streets, especially under bridges and main streets in particular, because of their fear of being attacked in the back streets or alleys and to avoid exposure to violence, or to harassment and immoral attacks.” He said.

“It is no longer limited to males, but we now you can see women also living on the streets, whether they are homeless, working in marginal professions, missing their families, or fleeing the hardship of life in the countryside.” Al-Sharjabi added.

Moreover, Dr. Al-Sharjabi pointed out the reasons that contributed to the expansion of this phenomenon, the most important of which is: “Poverty and economic condition, which is considered a major reason for the disintegration of families from different social classes, in addition to the state’s abandonment of its duty to provide social care services to the poor and marginalized groups who need special services, such as: rehabilitation programs, shelters, economic and social empowerment services as well as the provision of the available services to specific groups, especially those displaced from war to areas other than their own. Among the reasons for the spread of the phenomenon are the failure of sustainable development programs and the shortcomings in the planning programs of civil society organizations and international organizations, as their programs focus on issues that do not represent a priority for these people.”

Many of the homeless have resorted to begging or joining the militias groups spread throughout the country. What is more critical than this is that many of these destitute people are exposed to sexual violence, as they do not find protection either from society or by concerned bodies alike.

Cruel weather as cruel as their suffering

In the Taiz street square (east of Sana'a city), a group of homeless young people who left their hometowns in the Yemeni countryside in search of job opportunities, or to escape from some family violence, only to find themselves on the sidewalk of the Al-Ameed Restaurant, which has been closed for years and living in dilapidated tents that are not suitable for sheltering animals rather than humans.

“I have nowhere to go, and the most I can hope for is to have a hot meal to protect me from the harsh coldness of Sanaa, which is similar in its roughness to the harshness of my family who abandoned me since I was fifteen years old.” One of these homeless people told Khuyut. The majority of the displaced people live under very cold climate, which may sometimes reach two degrees below zero.

Ramzi, a homeless person who lives in a torn-out tent, told Khuyut: “After I spend my day washing cars, I return to shelter here as I have no other choice. Where can I go, and what shall I do? I spent nine whole months here, and it is difficult for me to leave the place.” As long as I do not have the costs of renting a room, in addition to providing living necessities, and the requirements for eating and drinking.” Ramzi said.

For her part, Dr. Afaf Al-Haimi, professor of sociology at Sana’a University, spoke to “Khuyut” about the impact of homelessness on the behavior of vagrant individuals: “Homelessness has transformed from a condition into a general phenomenon, in which social disorder, behavioral and psychological deviations, and various organic diseases flourish.” These negative impacts in turn reflects negatively on the homeless themselves and on society, which is the first recipient of these consequences that is witnessing a growth spurt coinciding with the increase in the number of homeless people on the street.” Al-Haimi said.

"The current living conditions are extremely deteriorating, and have pushed many Yemeni youths either to immigrate outside the country, or to work in various professions, some of which are very modest while the regimes oppressed the third group of young men who were tempted to join the battles of the parties to the ongoing conflict, so that they ended up as a fuel for them on the different battling fronts.” Al-Haimi explained.

Dr. Al-Haimi concluded by confirming to Khuyut that “the Yemeni countryside has become repulsive to young people, forcing them to travel to the main cities, most notably Sana’a, which is witnessing a severe economic crisis due to the war, a stifling housing crisis, and the consequent absence of all forms of official care and humanitarian solidarity.” 

A Group of Yemeni homeless sleep on the streets of Sana'a

Amputation and political exploitation

Ahmed (13 years old), displaced from Hajah Governorate (north of the country) due to the outbreak of war there, so he was forced to leave the governorate and come to Sana’a, where he currently works as a car washer in the finance ministry roundabout in central Sana’a. He and his sister abandoned their school, due to his father’s inability to pay education fees.

Despite the gloomy reality under which the homeless are suffering, there were previous attempts to rehabilitate them in 2006, when the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, allocated some shelter areas for them in Sana'a. 

That time, the concerned authorities organized night patrols to follow up on their movement to specialized centers in the Saraf area in the east of Sana'a, according to the statement of an employee in the office of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor in Sanaa to Khuyut. The employee confirmed that these procedures - which were carried out under the supervision of the organizers of the election campaign of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh - failed as a result of the corruption of those in charge of the Anti-Beggars Service, as some officials were removing them in exchange for financial incentives.

The health condition of Mohammad Saeed (61 years old) is deteriorating, especially since his left leg was amputated as a result of being diabetes, as he confirmed to Khuyut, adding: “I do not know why it was amputated, but they told me that it had reached a serious stage with which I might lose my life as a result of the disease.” I have been suffering from diabetes for some time now". He said.

Saeed is currently residing on the sidewalk street opposite the Yemeni-Chinese Friendship Bridge in the Tahreer square, Sana'a downtown, leaning against the walls of the Armed Forces Officers Club, wearing dirty clothes, His exhausted body curled up around a flame that he lit to protect him from the cold of Sanaa. Saeed explained that circumstances forced him to live far away from his family, which abandoned him a long time ago, and he no longer knew anything about them. Additionally, Saeed suffers from the consequences of amputation, in addition to the fact that he does not have access to medicine or tools to protect him from the cold after he was stranded, and was forced to lie down in this place to seek help or donations from passers-by.

An escalating burden

With the outbreak of war nearly nine years ago, these homeless people live in a state of fear and hunger, facing a dark reality in which there is no hope for shelter or official housing, in addition to poor financial capacity, and the absence of shelter places and charitable supporters.

It is noted that many of these street people have either resorted to begging or being recruited by militias spread throughout the country, and what is more critical than this is; Many of these people are exposed to sexual violence, as they do not get any protection from society or official bodies.

Some charitable people who were accustomed to providing modest support to some of the homeless began to consider them a burden as their number has been multiplied. Moreover, one of the residents, who usually provides aid to some of these homeless people, warns of the worsening of the homelessness crisis in the coming years, calling on the relevant authorities to put an end to this phenomenon before it is too late. 

A photo shows the suffering of homeless Yemenis in the streets of the capital, Sana'a

It is worth noting that after the years of ongoing conflict and the high rates of poverty, unemployment and homelessness between the years 2015 and 2023, estimates indicate an upsurge in the rates of homelessness due to the increase in the number of needy families who lack basic food that satisfies their hunger, especially with the interruption of salaries and the outrageous rise in the goods prices that have crushed this group. completely.

In conclusion, there are no governmental or private studies and research – as the case in war-weary countries - on homelessness, but opinion polls estimate the number of homeless people living in the streets and under bridges in Sanaa alone in the thousands, compared to their number before the outbreak of the conflict in 2015.

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