Poverty affects everyone including children, in fact, they are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than adults. Poverty is not only economic but is multidimensional, affecting fundamental rights including education, adequate housing, and access to drinking water.
Following the occasion of April 12 – the International Day for Street Children – we want to reflect on some numbers that speak to the lives of these children. According to recent statistics: up to 150 million children throughout the world live on the street; 356 million live in extreme poverty, forced to survive on less than $1.90 a day; and 1 billion are multi-dimensionally poor. The phenomenon of street children has its roots in different causes such as family abuse or rejection, mental health issues, displacement and criminal exploitation. Some children live with their families on the streets, others are orphans with no home to return to overnight.
We should therefore continue to raise awareness about street children and act to end the cycle of poverty by guaranteeing children’s rights. As Pope Francis said: “No child chooses to live on the streets. Sadly, even in our modern, globalized world, many children continue to be robbed of their childhood, their rights and their future. Lack of legal protection and adequate structures only aggravates their state of deprivation: they have no real family or access to education or health care”.
Protecting Dreams: Samuel’s Journey
Before arriving at Villa San Vicente in Puerto Eten, Peru, Samuel’s family was living in a small room in Chiclayo struggling to afford the cost of living. His mother, Jannoirg, still remembers:
We had a family problem, and our economic situation was very tense. It was very difficult to pay rent for the small room, so I had to separate my children and send my daughter to Chiclayo with my brother and Samuel to Puerto Eten with my uncle.
In Puerto Eten, Jannoirg and Samuel got in touch with Mitso Esperanza – Villa San Vicente de Paúl, the St Vincent de Paul Village. This is a housing project for vulnerable families experiencing homelessness, part of the 13 Houses Campaign.
Thanks to this Vincentian initiative, Samuel and his mom can all live together as one family, in their own house. Jannoirg said:
Since we live in Villa San Vicente, we have had a positive change (…) my children and the whole family are together again, my son is studying and is playing for a football team. He is one of the best students in his classroom and I can see his happiness and enthusiasm.
The project also focuses on providing training and employment workshops, alongside spiritual and personal development support to break the cycle of homelessness.
When I was 13 years old, I moved to the Villa San Vicente de Paul, it was very easy for me to adapt since my neighbours were very kind and friendly. My life in the village has been very good since I have been provided with some resources such as education, food, personal hygiene items, school supplies, etc. I am now dedicating myself to soccer and my studies, and it is going very well since I have worked hard to get here.