World Habitat Day—Everyone Needs a Safe, Decent Place to call Home

October 5, 2009 has been designated World Habitat Day by the United Nations. Its purpose is to call attention to the dire need worldwide for safe, adequate and affordable housing. According to the United Nations, more than 100 million people in the world today are homeless, while millions more live without adequate sanitation, electricity and security. One out of three city dwellers lives in a slum.

The need is truly staggering—more than 2 million housing units per year for 50 years are needed to solve the present crisis. Yet, even if they were all built, at the rate the population is growing, there will still be a need for another 1 billion housing units.

What can we do? The first step is to just be aware—and to care. Most of us are lucky to have more than adequate housing—we’re comfortable enough to have a difficult time imagining what it must be like to lack sanitary facilities and clean water for our families. Compared to most of the world, we live in luxury.

The housing crisis is not just some other nation’s problem—it’s a problem we can all come together to do something about. Advocating for change is the next step toward transforming the existing systems that perpetuate the global plague of poverty housing.

In the US, about 95 million people—one-third of the population, have housing problems such as high-cost, overcrowding, poor quality, and homelessness. These conditions contribute to health problems such as childhood asthma, viral infections, anemia and stunted growth. Approximately 180 children die each year in the U.S. due to house fires attributable to inadequate electrical systems and faulty heating.

Change can happen. Advocate for it by asking Congress to pass legislation to prioritize affordable housing. Educate yourself and your community about the problem here at home and around the globe. And donate to Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to end the global housing crisis.

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