Community-led COVID-19 Response: Philippine’s Homeless People’s Federation

Screenshot 2020-06-09 at 11.07.20

By Rolando A. Tuazon and Theresa Carampatana

Originally featured on the IIED blog:

Based on member interviews and accounts, the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation describes how community organizations have rallied to support vulnerable groups, hit hardest by the pandemic.

This blog describes how the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation (HPFPI) has responded to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Federation has over 9,000 members in 106 communities in 14 cities and towns throughout the Philippines. It brings together low-income community organizations to find solutions to problems relating to land, housing, income, infrastructure, health and welfare. Its work is supported by The Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc (PACSII).

The blog draws on responses to a questionnaire conducted by federation community leaders, and a teleconference where experiences from the ground — Batasan, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Muntinlupa, NCR,  Rodriguez-Rizal and Valenzuela — were shared.

Planning the response

[caption id="attachment_13143" align="alignleft" width="225"]Surveying needs in Manila. Surveying needs in Manila.[/caption]

Initial plans from HPFPI leaders (local, regional and national) included:

  • Identifying the communities’ most vulnerable people and updating community databases with member information. With this data, leaders could prioritize getting help for the homeless and others in greatest need including the elderly, children and people with disabilities
  • Deploying immediate interventions to help prevent the spread of the virus and minimize impacts of the lockdown
  • Coordinating and partnering with government and non-government institutions
  • Setting up a communications network to support member coordination across regions and cities
  • Since many banks were closed, supporting the transfer of funds to regions. At the start of the lockdown, each region used their savings to finance their community operations but these soon ran low.

Preventing the virus spread

[caption id="attachment_13137" align="alignleft" width="300"]Community quarantine in Mindanao. Community quarantine in Mindanao.[/caption]

Information on TV and radio made people aware of how to contain the virus. Federation leaders worked to get this information out to everyone, while also trying to prevent ‘fake news’ circulating. Information sharing must observe social distancing rules; meetings are not allowed.


People complied with the information as follows:

  • Blocking off whole areas to prevent movement
  • Applying social distancing and wearing face masks
  • Observing national curfew (8pm – 5 am)
  • Using quarantine passes to buy food – one per family member and for those working on the frontline
  • All observing home-stay, senior citizens most strictly
  • Promoting good hygiene such as hand washing
  • Medical check-ups when virus symptoms develop
[caption id="attachment_13140" align="alignnone" width="750"]Handwashing station in Iloilo. Handwashing station in Iloilo.[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_13142" align="alignleft" width="300"]Making masks and food packs in Mindanao. Making masks and food packs in Mindanao.[/caption]

Community leaders have helped keep community members disinfected, distributing soap and alcohol cleanser. Some have built communal washing facilities or purchased thermal scanners that can detect the virus. Some are making washable masks because it is now more difficult to get these from the stores.


Local government has also been disinfecting public markets and other commonly used areas.

Practical help

[caption id="attachment_13141" align="alignleft" width="300"]Making food packs in Manila. Making food packs in Manila.[/caption]

External aid agencies were slow to respond and initially, funding to support the homeless came mainly from community savings and the HPFPI’s disaster fund.

Federation leaders bought food in bulk and packaged it up for distribution to each family.

The packs include 3-5 kg of rice, canned sardines, instant noodles, biscuits and coffee. In some cases, packages included baby milk, medicines and vitamins. 

Families often share their food with neighbours, especially those in greater need. Some have set up community kitchens and communal gardens with backyard and vertical gardening.

Community leaders have been coordinating with local government to get those infected to hospital or community health centres. Preventive measures implemented in the communities have paid off: there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in most areas with community associations.

Working with government

The government’s strict quarantine policy makes it hard for HPFPI to mobilise the community response. So, the federation has been working with government agencies to identify the most vulnerable members, distribute relief goods and cash, repackage goods for the poorest, and carry out health monitoring. Local government units often find it easier to implement their programs when working with organizations such as HPFPI.

Mobilising funds and resources

As the lockdown was enforced, people lost their income almost overnight. They needed money to buy food but the government response was slow and when help did arrive, provisions were inadequate. 1kg of rice, 1 can of sardines and 1 pack of instant noodles was meant to provide for a family for a week. Some families would receive a second package, often with more items.

National government announced payments of 5,000 – 8,000 pesos for each family, but more than half did not receive it.

Funding from Slum Dwellers International (SDI) and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) has been supporting HPFPI’s work in each region but it has proved difficult to get the bank to actually transfer the funds. Some members benefitted from support from development organisation Caritas.

Because of the enormity of the needs of our sizeable membership, PACSII is seeking funds from local sources. 1.5 million pesos (30,000 USD) have been donated by individuals and local companies.

Challenges brought by COVID-19…

The lockdown prevents people moving, working, planning, organizing and travelling to access resources. But community leaders found ways round this and managed to coordinate with government, often through the internet and digital meetings.

The government’s home-stay policy is particularly challenging with the harsh living conditions many face. Young people find the confinement tough, and some have violated quarantine rules.

Overall, the government was ill-prepared: resources and the mechanisms to distribute them were insufficient. In adequate health systems has led to a health crisis that will, almost certainly, give way to an economic crisis.

…but some good things too

The massive drop in transport emissions has reduced air pollution significantly. The lockdown has offered more opportunities for family bonding, community solidarity and nurtured a general feeling of unity. People have also found their faith is stronger, with a deeper appreciation of God and His providence. Some communities have organized common time for prayers.


An effective crisis response draws on the efforts of many. The government quickly found it could not prevent the spread of the virus, or adequately address its impacts, without cooperation from everyone.

Similarly, community organizations found they could work at scale and with greater impact when their work was supported by government. Updated baseline community data for community mapping was fundamental for getting help to the most vulnerable areas.

Finally, the challenge of accessing funds, particularly in the early stages of lockdown, made clear the need for an emergency fast-response fund to help manage future disasters and crises.

Theresa Carampatana is president of the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines; Rolando A. Tuazon is Executive Director of PACSII 

[caption id="attachment_13144" align="alignleft" width="212"]Theresa Carmpatana, HPFPI Theresa Carmpatana, HPFPI[/caption] [caption id="attachment_13139" align="alignleft" width="275"]Fr. Rolando A. Tuazon, PACSII Fr. Rolando A. Tuazon, PACSII[/caption]

From Purok to Barangay: Mapping Informality in Philippine Cities



By the Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines, Inc.

The  Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (HPFPI), commenced their settlement profiling and mapping in January 2015 during a learning exchange supported by the Indian Alliance. The exchange brought together participants from different regions of the country like the NCR, Cebu, Davao and Kidapawanin San Isidro, Jaro, and Iloilo City.  Since then, the Federation and their support staff have been actively mapping and profiling in three cities: Valenzuela, Davao and Iloilo City.

Erlinda Mosqueda, Valenzuela Peoples Organization Network (VALPONET), President/Community Worker, reflects:

“I had a good experience in doing settlement profiling and mapping. I learned how to use the GPS (Global Positioning System) device. Once I saw our settlement in the computer through the GPS device, I felt it was a success.

We also experienced many hardships. Our first step was to have a courtesy call to the head of the Barangay (the smallest government unit of the city) before going to the community. Some communities refused to be interviewed because they were afraid the data that will be gathered might be used against them. In spite of these struggles, we were able to interview 21 communities.

I saw the importance of doing settlement profiling and mapping, the use of new technology, and how to encode. At least we learned something. I felt happy.

Before I do not know also how to do the settlement profiling. Being president of our network, VALPONET, I want other leaders to know also how to interview using the settlement profiling form and now I am happy that there are already other community leaders who know how to interview using the settlement profiling form.

One of our challenges is that only one knows from our network how to upload the settlement profiling form in the computer. It is a challenge for us to learn how to use the computer because this is the trend now.

The important thing about doing the settlement profiling and mapping is when one community asks for their own data, the VALPONET is ready to give them.”  

Valenzuela City is part of the Metropolitan Manila, Philippines. Together with 16 other cities and a municipality it forms part of the most populous region in the Philippines. A total of 8 settlements have thus far been profiled by the federation. Six of these settlements are undeclared settlements with insecure land tenure with an estimated population of 17,121 persons. The Federation estimates that there are approximately 3,369 structures in total, of which about 376 are residential-cum-business structures and a further 129 full business structures. Businesses in settlements offer access to goods and services within the settlement and serve as a livelihood stream for many families.




Davao City is a highly urbanised city and said to be the fourth most populous city in the Philippines. The federation has profiled a total of 6 slums thus far with an estimated population of 17,033 persons and an estimated 2657 structures in total of which 2,309 are residential. Securing land tenure is a priority in 5 of these settlements. Access to adequate sanitation and sewerage was named by the 6th settlement as their most important development priority.


In Iloilo City the federation has profiled two communities thus far. The estimated total population in these communities is 2,261. Both of these settlements are undeclared, with insecure land tenure, security of tenure, and housing identified as the most important community development priorities.


Of the 23 settlements the Philippine federations has profiled and documented thus far, 13 of these are currently facing eviction threats. Floods and strong winds have been listed as the most often occurring natural disasters.





Interview using the informal settlement profile form


Interview with barangay officials regarding barangay profile and boundary at Ungka Jaro, Iloilo


Remembering Father Norberto Carcellar

Father Norberto Carcellar

SDI is sad to hear of the passing of Father Norberto Carcellar of the Philippine SDI Alliance. We express our deepest condolences to the Philippines federation. Father Norberto was instrumental in pushing forward the poor peoples’ agenda in the Philippines and his contributions there have benefited the entire SDI network. We at SDI will celebrate his life and his wishes for poor people by continuing the work to which he dedicated so much of his life. 

For more remembrances of Father Norberto, visit the ACHR website here

Well-Run Cities Are Resilient: The Importance of Responsive Relationships Between Local Governments & Slum Communities


By Caroline Walker, SDI Secretariat 

“Time and again, those who have the least lose the most”[1]

Solutions to major challenges that have become exacerbated by climate change are often found in the hands of communities at the coalface of such disasters. In a recent New York Times article Tim Hanstad and Roy Prosterman discuss Typhoon Haiyan’s impact on the Philippines last November and the importance of allocating the poor land rights.  They highlight the lack of collateral for the majority of Haiyan’s victims: slum residents.  Hanstad and Prosterman emphasize that it is in the best economic and social interests of a country to address the issue of landlessness. 

Natural disasters are not “equal-opportunity destroyers”.[2]  The urban poor are the most badly hit. They have poorer quality housing and insufficient “risk-reducing” infrastructure (piped water, sewers, electricity and good roads).[3] David Satterthwaitedefines resilience as “…the capacity of a city to absorb climate change-related disturbances/shocks while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning”.[4] Satterthwaite and Dodman explain that an oft neglected aspect of resilience is political, further defining resilience in low and middle income cities as local government extending political representation to slum residents through addressing their needs.[5] Additionally, institutional competence is needed in order for cities to generate resilience. Low resilience in cities is shown both by the effects of disasters and subsequent disaster relief.  Typhoon Haiyan is testament to this.  Many of Haiyan’s 4 million displaced occupied low-lying coastal zones.The city of Tacloban (in the Leyte province), home to a large slum population and one of the worst hit, displays what Satterthwaite terms “accumulated vulnerability” – a failure to develop the necessary infrastructure to be resilient to climate change.[6] After the storm, government embarked on a plan to use a large portion of previously slum land to expand Tacloban City Airport.  Such land insecurity is why many slum dwellers remain in their structures amid natural disasters, fearing a loss of their land – increasing mortality.  Hanstad and Prosterman cite land reforms in South Korea, Vietnam and Rwanda to support their solution of addressing this and the issue of landlessness in the Philippines.  Giving the poor land rights is one way to strengthen a city’s structures and increase resilience.

Well-run cities are resilient cities; resilient cities are adaptive cities

The most resilient cities are associated with high-income and strong local and national governments. Such cities are characterized by strong physical, social, political and financial structures. These structures allow cities to adapt to changing conditions and withstand and recover from various stresses.[7] Historically, poor service provision by local governments in the global south has been marked by deficiencies in infrastructure and institutions.[8] Satterthwaite draws attention to this by comparing the devastation wrought by typhoons of the same strength in Japan and the Philippines.  The latter saw higher mortality rates.  Many high-income cities’ resilience “…is independent of any climate change adaptation measures because it was built [responding] to risks that are (or were) present independent of climate change but that climate change will exacerbate”.[9]  This highlights the importance of local and national authorities.

The need for bottom-up development

“Resilience to climate change is often the result of low-income citizens getting responses to everyday needs”.[10] In order for the urban poor to be incorporated in cities, local authorities need to increase engagement with community members.  Local governments are often reluctant to work with slum residents.[11]This requires action from communities and a change in government attitude.  The Philippine’s Homeless People’s Federation supported by Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives Inc (PACSII) has been engaging government on housing since its inception.  Stronger housing structures would have curbed the death toll in the Philippines.  Federations across the global south are and can be a channel for the government to understand the needs of the urban poor and plan responses accordingly.  At the time of the disaster the Philippines Alliance was planning to mobilize affected community members in the Bohol and Cebu provinces to conduct damage assessments as well as profile, map and enumerate affected communities.  Such activities can direct local authorities to where the need is greatest.  Without this data funds are often misdirected or misspent, if that.  Community savings can also be used by Federations to invest in measures to increase resilience. After Typhoon Frank in Illoilo, Philippines, the Federation used community savings to leverage funds from the government in order to build transit housing accommodating 293 people.

Innovation is needed in developing resistance to and dealing with the effects of climate change.  Local authorities need to work with slum communities to improve the quality of housing structures and develop early warning systems in order to lessen the impact of typhoons like Haiyan.  Each group cannot do so effectively on its own.  Poor communities “…cannot build much-needed citywide trunk infrastructure, [thus] they have to demonstrate to government agencies their capacities as potential partners”.[12]  Local authorities and poor communities are the nexus for improving resilience. Whether systems developed are effective or not depends on whether they are supported by the poor. 

The impact of Typhoon Haiyan is one of many examples of the effects of climate change on the urban poor. Dual efforts need to be made to improve relationships between local authorities and the urban poor and to strengthen physical, social, political and financial structures.  Doing so will increase resilience, decreasing negative effects of disasters.  Hanstad and Prosterman write about the need for the international community to pressurize the Filipino government (as well as many others) to address land security.  This should be the start of a global discussion on land security, extending to how to increase resilience of slum communities – aiming towards achieving more inclusive cities. 

[1]Hanstad, T and Prosterman, R. The New York Times, “How the Poor Get Washed Away, ” 14 January 2014,

[2]Hanstad, T and Prosterman, R. The New York Times, “How the Poor Get Washed Away, ” 14 January 2014,

[3]Satterthwaite, D. 2013. The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 382. Available online at:

[4]Satterthwaite, D. 2013. The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 381. Available online at:

[5]Satterthwaite, D and Dodman, D. 2013. Towards resilience and transformation for cities within a finite planet, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 291. Available online at:

[6]Satterthwaite, D. 2013. The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 387. Available online at:

[7]Satterthwaite, D and Dodman, D. 2013. Towards resilience and transformation for cities within a finite planet, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 295. Available online at: 

[8][8]Moser, C and Satterthwaite, D. 2008. Climate Change and Cities Discussion Paper 3: Towards pro-poor adaptation to climate change in the urban centres of low- and middle-income countries. v. Available online at:

[9]Satterthwaite, D. 2013. The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 383. Available online at:

[10]Satterthwaite, D. 2013. The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 388. Available online at:

[11][11]Moser, C and Satterthwaite, D. 2008. Climate Change and Cities Discussion Paper 3: Towards pro-poor adaptation to climate change in the urban centres of low- and middle-income countries. v. Available online at:

[12]Satterthwaite, D. 2013. The political underpinnings of cities’ accumulated resilience to climate change, Environment and Urbanization 25(2): 389. Available online at:

Knowing What They Have and Expressing What They Want

Housing design workshop

**Cross-posted from Homeless People’s Federation of the Philippines (HPFP) Blog** 
ILOILO CITY– Social preparatory activities such as the Social Mapping and Dream House Workshop are among the capacity building activities supported by the Philippine Alliance to foster and promote community-led processes among partner communities in the country as a whole. New Baldoza Homeowners’ Association (NBHOA), one of the new community associations qualified to avail of the community-managed housing project implemented by the Philippine Alliance through the Community-led Infrastructure Finance Facility Program actively participated in the back to back training workshop facilitated by housing participants from Kabalaka and San Isidro housing project. The activity which was held last November 20, 2011 in Barangay Baldoza, Lapaz, Iloilo City, was attended by twenty (23) out of the twenty seven (27) applicants.

Housing design workshop

Social mapping during the morning session was conducted to map-out the socio-economic profile of the association members who are entitled to avail of a maximum loanable amount of one hundred fifty thousand pesos (P150, 000.00) and will serve as supplementary basis in validating the information given by the participants during their application and reconsideration of the loan package on the part of HPFPI-PACSII in Iloilo. 

Dream house workshop on the other hand provides a venue for each participant to express their dream house through participative and illustrative schematic design making. Individual designs are then consolidated to integrate common spaces and essential design attributes by community architects and interns from the TAMPEI though three dimensional (3D) design models and prototypes. 

Despite budget limitation, particularly on the capital fund for the construction materials as well as the participants expressed preference on replicating the house designs in San Isidro Relocation Site in Jaro instead, the Alliance considers it imperative to conduct separate dream house workshop for New Baldoza as it would facilitate social acceptability and pave the way in building a sense of ownership among association members. As a response and in consideration of the people’s inherent adaptive capacity, the alliance encourages incremental development as a strategy to bridge the gap resulting from the aforementioned budget limitation.    

For the past years, since the beginning of its housing initiatives in 2007, the Philippine Alliance has been consistent on its stand that social preparatory activities such as social mapping and dream house workshop are fundamental components of a cohesive and responsive community development undertaking. Building capacities among housing participants is likewise a leap forward towards a holistic community-led process.