You can hide the homeless and internally displaced for a while, but not forever.
Four years ago the government forcibly removed 36,000 families living in a slum in New Delhi, India and promised them land and a fresh start in a "model resettlement community" in Bawana, 40 kilometers away. But the government counts only 9,000 families in need of help; 27,000 additional families were evicted and no one seems to know where most of them they are.Most of the internally displaced relocated to Bawana still don't have running water or electricity.
Barbados has divided its country into residential and non-residential areas in an effort to reduce the risk of water pollution in water catchment areas. But squatters continue to live in water catchment area; five of their communities have been bulldozed but hundreds of people find their way back to the area because they have nowhere else to go.
In the U.S., a tent city in Ontario, CA was set up as a temporary refuge for the area's homeless, but grew so quickly that in May, public officials removed anyone who could not prove they were originally from the area. In Seattle, WA an intentionally-designed tent city called "Nickelsville" after the city's Mayor Nickels is on its third home, currently in the parking lot of the University Christian Church, and housing 90 people.
In the UK, a website called the Advisory Service for Squatters post listings of vacant property in the UK and helps match British people as well as Eastern Europeans and others with the properties.
Nearly one-sixth of the world's population live in squatter communities or otherwise unorganized townships and parking lots. As long as the economic disparity between the world's weathiest and poorest citizens continues to grow, the numbers of internally displaced persons will grow also.
Today, November 10, hundreds of bloggers at Bloggers Unite, a project of BlogCatalogue, are writing about the dilemma of refugees around the world. I'm encouraging everyone to take a look in our own backyards: refugees are not just in faraway countries but everywhere among us. Figure out what you can do to help and then-- take action. Go to Refugees Unite to learn more, and check out the posts at Bloggers Unite.
Photo: A squatters' flag from the International Institute of Social History