fha-nl-06-2023-indiaDuring the tumultuous times of the 17th century, Saint Vincent de Paul emerged as a guiding light and a beacon of compassion, long before the dark shadows of slums consumed our world. His dedication to those forgotten by society resonates with a profound truth: today, he would have made slum dwellers his foremost priority. During the wars in Lorraine, Vincent provided assistance to thousands of displaced people. In response to poverty in Paris, he established relief programs to those most in need.

In the present day, the issue of homelessness perseveres as a stark reality: an estimated 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing globally, of which 1 billion live in slums and informal settlements[1].

The challenge of slum dwelling continues to afflict numerous regions and perpetuating poverty for millions of individuals across the globe. Although the definition of slums varies, they are always associated with some sort of deprivation and characterized by overcrowded living conditions, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to basic services, posing significant challenges to the well-being of their inhabitants[2]. The causes are multifaceted, including rapid urbanization, poverty, land tenure insecurity, limited access to basic services, social exclusion and discrimination[3].

To effectively address this complex challenge, a multidimensional approach is essential. This entails implementing a range of key strategies, including but not limited to: upgrading and renewing slum areas; empowering individuals through social and economic means; and implementing governance practices[4].

Today many Vincentians help slum dwellers achieve a dignified life. Just think of the many 13 Houses projects addressing slum dwelling such as: the work of the Congregation of the Mission and the SSVP in India; the project Akamasoa in Madagascar; or the joint Vincentian efforts in Nigeria. Each of these and other 13 Houses projects represent just a fraction of the amazing work that the Vincentian Family is doing worldwide at the service of the poorest.

Inspired by the work of many Vincentians, the FHA has organized a series of Conferences relating to its core mission of serving homeless people. In 2018, the conference focused primarily on street homelessness. In 2022, we brought together speakers to raise awareness of the plight of refugees, internally displaced people and victims of human trafficking. The FHA eagerly anticipates hosting a conference in January 2024 in Manila, Philippines, specifically dedicated to slum dwelling.

The Vincentian Family actively works with slum dwellers in the Philippines through local and international organizations. Esteemed educational institutions like Adamson University (venue for the 2024 conference) and the Saint Vincent School of Theology play a vital role in addressing the challenges faced by slum communities. They offer community initiatives to provide education, skills development, and essential social services.
The conference is an opportunity to delve more deeply into the inspiring work of the Vincentian Family in the Philippines and across the globe. It will be a gathering of diverse practitioners and individuals with lived experiences, coming together to share their insights. We are thrilled to announce that approximately 60 participants from around the world will be able to exchange practices and learn from one another. To all Vincentian practitioners dedicated to uplifting the lives of slum dwellers, we extend a heartfelt invitation to contact us via email (fha.info@famvin.org) and express your interest in participating.

Together, we will put the spotlight on the harsh realities of slums worldwide, and strive towards sustainable solutions that bring hope and dignity to those in need.

By Anna Mosca

[1] UN HABITAT, 2016

[2] Gray zones: on the causes and consequences of slums

[3] UN HABITAT, 2018

[4] ibid