When we choose which cities to explore in our travels, our decisions are often based on historical and cultural curiosity, the opportunity to sample cuisines prepared by indigenous chefs, and seeing natural wonders inherent to the locale.
Unless you wander away from your tour group or befriend some local folks, it’s unlikely you’ll ever see the very depressed parts of cities, the scenes that are never seen in the promotional brochures or on visitor-focused websites.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights reports that there are an estimated 100 million homeless people worldwide. Some of the cities on this list may not surprise you but just as many will have you shaking your head, wondering how things got this bad, and questioning what can be done to make them better.
As you climb through the ruins and imagine the Greek gods of lore in their reigning glory, you might catch a glimpse of some the 20,000 homeless people in the country. The mighty city of Athens spawned about 9,000 of them and human displacement has been on the rise since the economic debacle of 2009.
In addition to the social unrest that has plagued Baltimore the past few years, a 2011 study revealed over 4,000 homeless persons in Baltimore, Maryland. The majority of them are families with children, and Baltimore is scrambling to create programs to build affordable housing to alleviate the problem.
But read on…Budapest is much worse off!
In Budapest alone, there are about 10,000 homeless people out of 1.7 million residents. The Hungarian government recently reclassified homelessness as a crime, so people who choose to shun government-run shelters risk prosecution if they don’t have their own residences. About 6,000 of the homeless population have chosen to reside in the city’s shelters.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
A city known for its European-inspired architecture and party vibe driven by the tango, the 15,000 homeless are so overlooked that they’re often called the phantoms of Buenos Aires streets. So as you dance the night away, don’t forget that there are only 1,700 available beds at city shelters. Talk about a buzzkill.
The notorious Windy City apparently doesn’t blow in many opportunities for shelter. As of July 2013, The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless reported that the city’s homeless population had increased by 10% in one year to 116,042 (over the entire year) and 15,000 on any given night. The cold winds coming off Lake Michigan must be brutal for those folks.
Sure, you can buy pot on almost any city street in Denver from a proper storefront, but that economic boom doesn’t seem to be helping the homeless. Approximately 3,737 homeless now live in Denver, a lowball estimate of around a 10 percent increase over the last two years. More like Rocky Mountain homeless than Rocky Mountain high.
Apparently the luck of the Irish is a bit scant in Dublin: a recent survey indicated that about seven people a day lose their homes in Dublin and as recently as 2013, around 2,366 people were found sleeping on the city streets on any given night and is blamed on government’s refusal to build shelters.
In the city of Indianapolis, there are approximately 15,000 homeless people. Famous for its faith-based homeless shelters, apparently they can’t do it alone. Now that Governor Pence is out, maybe the next governor can better address the problem. No more homeless Hoosiers!
Jakarta reported in 2000 that about 28,364 people in the city were without homes. To make matters worse, the city has been plagued with more than their share of natural disasters like floods and storms in last two decades, significantly compounding the problem. Private and government sources are both helping to battle the problem.
In 2013, there were more than 2,000 people without homes in Lisbon, half of whom slept in shelters. Members of the Comunidade Vida e Paz are encouraging the city’s homeless population to actively participate in rehabilitation programs to improve the quality of their lives instead of merely finding places to sleep.
Out of about 23 million homeless people reported in India in 2003, about 25,000 of them were living on the streets of Mumbai. Despite numerous government programs in place to cure the blight, the number of displaced people increases every day as many residents migrate elsewhere to find jobs and better housing options.
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
While you enjoy watching the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, the polluted water, and Zika virus will be frequently mentioned. But the city is also known for homelessness, with over 5,000 without homes as of 2014. Sure gives new meaning to the catchphrase (and movie title) “Blame It On Rio.”
Ah, the thrill of Roman architecture, the pasta, the wine… the 7,000 homeless people. Of Italy’s 17,000 homeless people in the country, 7,000 are in Rome, right next door to the land of gold and more gold, The Vatican. Which is the home of the reportedly holiest and most benevolent man on earth. Just sayin’…
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Based on a study conducted recently, around 10,000 people are homeless in the center of São Paulo, Brazil, the country’s most populated and wealthiest state. Most sleep in old abandoned buildings and hotels since few, if any, accommodations are provided by the government or private charities. The name of the city honors Saint Paul of Tarsu, who may be weeping.
San Diego, California
As the second largest city in the State of California, San Diego is known for its sweeping ocean vistas and pristine parks and beaches. It has a population of 1,345,895, including almost 9,000 homeless people. The city went through urban renewal in the 1980s but continues to have a serious problem housing its displaced citizens.
San Francisco, California
An estimated 7,000 to 10,000 people in San Francisco have no homes and an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 of those people refuse to live in temporary shelters provided by the government, citing widespread theft and assault in the government subsidized dwellings. The City By The Bay has a diverse total population of over 805,000.
Seattle is a favorite city among young people, many of whom migrated there years ago to join the grunge music scene. They make up a significant portion of its 686,000 residents. Unfortunately, they are also part of the homeless population, which the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress estimated to be around 9,106.
Lack of affordable housing and homeless shelters has contributed to the alarming number of homeless people in Tampa. The number of homeless people decreased by 5.9% between 2015 and 2016 — with 1,817 without residences. The (kind of) good news is 57% of all homeless people in Tampa find refuge in shelters.
Visitors to Tokyo often rave about the flashy shopping districts, terrific food, and electrifying atmosphere. Hardly anyone mentions the homeless, which a 2013 study estimated at around 5,000. However, Tokyo seems to be doing something right — in 2014, the number of homeless dropped to 1,697. Not bad for a total population of 13.62 million.
The U.S. nation’s capital has a lot of problems, but the local government treats their homeless pretty well. With around 6,865 homeless reported in D.C. in 2013, in the past few years, the city government started sheltering its homeless when temperatures dropped below freezing. Those who shun shelters are given stipends to stay in hotels.