A survey carried out in December 2009 found that Chile has 634,328 people (3.7% of the population) living in extreme poverty. Since 2006 this percentage has gone up by 0.5%, the first increase since 1990. Those affected are mainly in rural areas.
These figures are worrying for President Sebastian Piñera's government, one of whose announced goals is to end all extreme poverty in the nation before Piñera’s term ends.
Mideplan (Ministry of Planning and Co-operation) Minister Felipe Kast has therefore decided to revamp the Sistema Chile Solidario, a social protection program set up by the socialist Lagos government in 2004. The first step is to invest 2.1 million USD (11%) more in the Support Program for the Homeless than it received last year.
So far, the support program (in operation since 2007) has worked with 6,796 people. This year it plans to aid 3,662 individuals and 4,517 in 2011.
According to Kast, a new census of people currently homeless or living in extreme poverty is needed. The last census of this kind was carried out in 2005; it found 7,254 people.
The new census is to be carried out in December and January, and will record sources and amount of income and current housing conditions as well as such problems as alcoholism and drug addiction.
Homeless individuals will be asked what type of work they are familiar with or have done in the past, whether they suffer from health problems, and what led to their situation.
Kast explained that this will be a difficult challenge. “Not only do we have to collect information, but once we have it we will have to work to verify it.”
Once the poor individual’s circumstances are clear, Kast’s goal is to make “focused and co-ordinated” links between the health, justice, housing and work ministries as well as Mideplan and private organizations designed to help the poorer section of society.
By Sasha Magill – Santiago Times