Migration and homelessness
Migration and homelessness are interlinked, crossing paths in many ways. Factors such as language challenges, legal status, a lack of social networks, difficulty accessing services and prejudice means that migrants may be at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness.
Homelessness can have a negative impact on the health of migrants, who may face physical and mental health issues, abuse and stigma. To alleviate the risk of homelessness, migrants may have to depend on informal networks, relocate frequently, or remain in unsuitable or overcrowded housing.
Migration and a changing climate
Climate migration is the movement of people due to the impacts of climate change and migration can be driven by a changing climate in various ways. The main drivers include sea level rise, such as in Bangladesh and the Maldives and extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, storms and wildfires. Long-term environmental changes such as desertification, land degradation, water scarcity and biodiversity loss can also cause migration.
However, this migration is not always negative. When people migrate, there can be an opportunity for them to access better services and diversify their income. Migration can also contribute to the mitigation of climate change, by reducing pressure on natural resources, transferring skills and raising awareness and advocacy. Therefore, migration can be both a challenge and an opportunity.
For organisations working on climate migration, there are many challenges. Lack of data and evidence, legal and policy gaps and limited resources can make it difficult to assist climate migrants. However, policies can be implemented to reduce the risk of migrants experiencing homelessness. Prevention policies can reduce the need for people to migrate by enhancing their resilience and adaptation to climate change. Facilitation policies ensure that people are able to migrate safely, by providing them with information, assistance and protection. Meanwhile, integration policies ensure that migrants and their host communities can coexist peacefully and benefit from one another.
Innovative Vincentian projects globally supporting migrants
There are many projects across the globe which assist migrants, including Famvin Homeless Alliance’s 13 Houses Campaign, which improves and transforms the lives of 10,000 people experiencing homelessness worldwide. In Seville, the Vincentian Soul is a 13 Houses project providing accommodation, food, legal assistance, and job training to migrants and refugees. Run by the Vincentian Family, the project has a particular focus on assisting women and children in vulnerable situations.
Elsewhere, the 13 Houses Campaign supports migrants via the Shelter Flats project in Asturias, Spain. This innovative project offers temporary housing and guidance to migrants who are seeking to regulate their legal status and find employment.
There are various projects in the 13 Houses Campaign which specifically aim to prevent and reduce homelessness for migrants affected by climate change. One example is the Papua New Guinea Socialised Housing Initiative, which builds low-cost, disaster-resilient houses for families living in informal settlements that are vulnerable to flooding and landslides.
Local initiatives complementing policies
To support migrants, especially those migrating due to climate change, comprehensive national and regional policies need to complement local initiatives. Projects should alleviate the risk of homelessness for migrants impacted by climate change and tailor solutions to local needs. Migration needs to be understood as a journey, an adventure of uncertainties and hopes.
As we mark International Migrants’ Day today, let’s remember that migrants deserve to be seen for who they are: people who undertake journeys to help them realise their full potential. If we see migration as an opportunity, our societies will take advantage of its possibilities and blessings.
Project Development Manager,
Famvin Homeless Alliance