Urban research created on the structural causes of

Urban
poverty can be understood in different ways, however this distinction between defining
urban and rural poverty can be problematic. One of the reasons it can be
problematic is that the spatial classification of poverty can have a direct
effect on discussion and research created on the structural causes of poverty. In
recent decades we have seen ‘Global demographic shift to urban areas as
undisputed, predictions about the urbanization of poverty are based on a
multitude of controversial assumptions regarding the definition of urban areas,
the nature of poverty and the capacity to measure it’ (Wratten). Increased
urbanisation has a direct link with the number of people that are homeless.
Homelessness as an urban poverty issue is contested as different definitions of
being homeless result in different research and statistics being created. However,
because of the increasing issue of homelessness making it a global issue, as
well as the significant body of research that shows that home is far more than
an economic entity, but it is a complex emotional contested concept with
detrimental effects to mental health when someone is without suggests that it
is a very important urban poverty issue to discuss.

In order to be able to comprehensively argue that
homelessness is a very important global urban poverty issue it is important to
be able to correctly define it. There is a move by social planners that have
pioneered a meaning of poverty that ‘allow for local variation… and expand the
definition to encompass perceptions of non-material deprivation and social
differentiation’ (Wratten. E). This way of conceptualizing poverty and not
undermining the different types of poverty people can face is important. This
can also be applied to the way that homelessness is understood. It should be
noted that some people may physically not have a roof or shelter at all, and
sleep on the pavement or doorways, however people who are in slums who have
shelter but can not be defined as a home. The UN- Habitat defines homes in
terms of whether or not it is ‘adequate’, which is measured by whether it has;
tenure security, structural support, infrastructure support and convenient
access to employment and community services. There needs to be the
differentiation between squatters, those informally housed and those homeless
however on the spectrum of informal to formal housing I believe it to be a
significant world-wide urban poverty issue. NEED MORE ON DEFINITONS AND WHY IT IS CONTESTED

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A home has two definitions and way of understanding
and interpreting it. It is first an economic entity and secondly a theoretical
and complex concept with a multitude of powerful emotions attached. There are
countless ways of understanding a home and the ways in which it is represented
as it is such a unique concept. Alison Blunt writes that ‘a home is hence a
complex and multilayers geographical concept, put most simply a home is a
place/ site of feelings and cultural meaning’ (Blunt and Dowling ). She goes on
to say that it should be recognised that homelessness and houselessness must be
differentiated, however this creates a range of definitions and a way of
explaining and understanding the definitions so critical social geographers
have created a middle ground, explaining homelessness as ‘simply being without
shelter and without any sense of belonging or identity’ (Blunt and Dowling), However, I critique this definition when
applied to people living in inadequate housing or slums there is a sense of
belonging and community. Therefore, I believe this definition to be more
applicable to a more typical homelessness seen in the global north. This
however, is why I believe homelessness to be such an important global urban
poverty issue as relative to each country there are people without shelter and
social geographers and planers alike, understand the issue LIL BIT MORE HERE.

Social constructions and issues come with the word
poverty as media representation allows for a reconstrued view of poverty but
also in the technological age and the increased accessibility people have to
images and it is these ‘reinforced representations that are an important
element in the othering process’ (Lister 2012). One example of this is Nick
Davies book The Shocking Truth, about
Hidden Britain in which the adjective ‘different’ is used consistently
throughout. This representation can ‘reinforce the way in which people in
poverty are typically seen as the objects rather than the subjects of media
representation’ (Illouz 1994). As well as media representations that is
damaging to those who are homeless making them detached from society and
feeling like an ‘other’, there is the issue of stigma. The nature of stigma
attached to poverty is differentiates itself in different societies due to
factors such as; historical treatment of the poor as well as nature of social
welfare. The stigma associated with being homeless ‘is not to be
underestimated… play an important role in maintaining inequality and social
hierarchy’. Although this applies to ‘homelessness’ as a whole, it specifically
more relevant to homelessness in western countries.  These are countries with a supposedly secure
welfare state system therefore the public perceptions of causes of poverty and
homelessness may be more sceptical and therefore increasing the negative
perceptions of them by the wider public and then in turn, lower self esteem and
difficulty changing their media representation.

Homelessness is a global issue, however
representations of it and the way of understanding the complexity of it as an
important urban poverty issue needs to understand it in relation to different
countries and societies. People who live in informal housing, or slums are included
in global figures of those who are homeless. Slum is the most globally used word,
however ‘the world slum is itself problematic. It arose out of a specifically
British experience of the early industrial era, and has associations
inappropriate to poor urban settlements of Dhaka, Mumbai or Lagos’ (Seabrook,
2009), however despite these noted issues with the word the readings that I
reference use the word ‘slums’ throughout so throughout the essay, I too will
reference the word slums. 

The UN-Habitat is a program with United Nations that
aims for a sustainable and successful urban future. ‘Its mission is to promote
socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements developing and the
achievement of adequate shelter for all’ (UN Habitat). It gives facts and
statistics regarding the rapid urban growth seen globally. ‘In 2014 54% of the
global population is in cities, but by 2050 it is expected to be 66%’ (Totaro,
2017). This projection demonstrates the importance for more empirical research
to be gathered regarding people living in slums as current methods of eviction
and demolition is a short-term action failing to give a real solution to the
issue. Another issue is conceptualising slums as definitions change as well as
the nature of the tenure. I will aim to give context to the urban poverty issue
of homelessness by examining the slum population in Nairobi, Kenya. Nairobi
population is three million, including 180,000 in the most well-known slum of Kibera.
Slums in Nairobi are incredibly densely populated areas, being ten times more
sense as formal residents in similar areas in the city. Slum dwellers are
defined with the lack of water, sanitary functions, over crowding or lack of
secure tenue. Facts on infant mortality
and crime? A governments ability to provide housing for its citizens
directly reflects the success of the government. Statistics could show a
decline in population in inadequate housing, but this may be due to changing
definitions and markers of slums and poverty resulting in false data. Another
issue faced by geographers and urban planners highlighting the importance of
the issue of homelessness as an urban poverty issue is the difficulty in
applying theories to improve lives that are gathered from empirical data from
one country. There are cultural shifts between countries as well as the rapid
changing nature of the slums itself highlight the importance of studying and
collecting data in developing countries about homelessness and applying it so
solutions quickly.

A second example that gives depth to the argument that
homelessness is a very important urban poverty issue that needs research and
theories to be collected and applied delicately is rapid urbanisation in China.
China is experiencing wide scale and rapid urbanization, ‘approximately 225.4
million migrant workers live in cities’ (Wang, Wang and Wu, 2010), however the
government has failed in providing housing for this demographic. China does not
have large scale slums but instead has urban villages, with growing populations
that are made up mainly of migrants. Shenzhen, home to eight million residents,
being an example of one. ‘Rural to urban migration has become a very important
part of urban development’ (Davin and Zhang, 1999), despite poor housing
conditions it has not acted as detrimental to growth of urban development in
China. The conditions are poor, with 4 people per room as an average, as well
as ‘37% of migrants do not have exclusive use of a toilet, bathroom or kitchen’
(Wang, Wang and Wu, 2010), however, not many of the residents are under the absolute
poverty line. This is due to ‘the government having effective control over
resource allocation and could guarantee the basic living conditions for urban
residents’, avoiding the poverty seen in slums in other developing
countries.  Against housing standards,
Shenzhen does not fall in the slum category, however the housing is inadequate
and overcrowded. However, the migrants consider how to use and save their
limited income and sharing is the most effective way of doing so. The urban
villages despite the overcrowding are relatively safe and secure, and new
affordable housing is consistently built. This demonstrates a success of the
government in providing housing for the urban population, however, I still
argue that this is an example of an urban poverty issue. In perspective, the
lives of residents may be better than those in the slums of Nairobi or Mumbai,
but I argue that being ‘homelessness’ is defined more than just having a
shelter over your head. The inadequate housing standards that the residents in
urban villages live in mean they are unable to connect it to a concept of
‘home’ provided by Blunt and Dowling. It shows the issue to be global, despite
there being slight differences in the experience of homelessness, this roof
that they have does not provide a home as it should. NEATEN UP

‘urban poor become a vulnerable group characterized by
market exclusion and limited by welfare dependency’ (Wu and Webster). This reliance
of welfare and instability regarding their home is known to be psychologically damaging
to the head of the household ‘stigma and worry associated with debt have a
measurable impact upon the subjective well-being of those providing’ (Ford and
Burrows). In the Urban villages in China, if migrants were unable to pay for
the housing they would have little choice but to return to their original home.

Homelessness is not an urban poverty issue that is
exclusive to developing countries. The UK faces a housing crisis that leaves
one in two hundred people homeless. ‘Homelessness in England is a “national crisis” and the
government’s attitude to tackling it is “unacceptably complacent’ (BBC News,
2017), with figure rising ‘since 2011 increased by 134%’, (BBC News
2017). The UK is in housing crisis, where population is increasing by 1% per year,
adding 270,000 new households, with only 140,000 new homes being built and not
enough of them being affordable homes have resulted in a spike in homelessness
(Fitzjohn-Skyes 2017). Homeless people in the UK are not living in slums or
urban villages with poor conditions, but this must not undermine it as an important
urban poverty issue. Being labelled as homeless in the UK can range from rough
sleeping, being in temporary accommodation, hidden homeless which is sofa surfing,
squatting or living in inadequate housing. Homelessness in the UK could be
described as a hidden issue, however, the government has the means to tackle to
issue but in order to do this the causes and routes to homelessness need to be
understood. Failures of the government are demonstrated in the film I, Daniel
Blake. The story demonstrates the issues with the welfare system and the
ignorance to urban poverty in the UK. Further demonstrations of governments inability
to respond to the crisis are those ‘homeless because of tragedy’, the fire in
Grenfell Tower. Four-Fifths of those made homeless have not been given a permanent
home. With 105 households living in hotels over the Christmas period.  ‘The
entirely preventable atrocity at Grenfell Tower has revealed the extent of
inequality in Kensington and Chelsea, and the years of poor political decision-making
and financial mismanagement.” (Gentlemen, 2017). Urban poverty in the UK
is relative. The huge gaps between the rich and poor were highlighted so
painfully after the fire. The shock after the crisis put into perspective the
fragility of the issue, the anger remains in urban areas where the disparities between
class are no longer hidden.

‘Homelessness is a global
quagmire that needs a global holistic approach to solve nonetheless unevenly
spread across countries’ (Godson, 2018), homelessness as an urban poverty
issue spans every society and country and has a negative effect on quality of
life and economic stability of millions of people. Research and data must be
collected delicately as each country has a unique problem, all with unique
solutions attached.  Work collected by
Blunt and Dowling, along with a number of social and feminist geographers
should be used by planners and politicians when determining policy against
homelessness as an urban poverty issue as they demonstrate the immeasurable importance
of having a home. Housing is a human rights issue, and for the UK, with the
fifth largest economy in the world the government’s failure for providing a
home is both inexcusable and evidence for it being prevalent global urban
poverty issue. Homelessness is a contested definition because of what is
defined as adequate housing and

 

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