The UN has adopted the first resolution defining homelessness and asking countries to measure it. For the first time in its 75 years, the UN is considering homelessness as a mainstream policy issue. The work of the Vincentians has been crucial in helping to achieve this watershed moment.
The resolution was adopted at the end of 58th Session of the Commission for Social Development, focused on affordable housing and social protection floors for all to address homelessness. Vincentian advocacy has played a vital role in introducing homelessness to the UN Agenda.
The advocacy efforts by the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness made it possible for this issue to be the priority theme of the 58th Session. The Working Group, created by the Vincentian Family, brings together organisations from all over the world. Until now, the group was coordinated by Father Memo Campuzano CM. The FHA, and our partners DePaul International and the Institute of Global Homelessness also members, and together have powered the “Make us count” campaign.
The basis for the definition of homelessness adopted by the UN is the IGH Framework, also adopted by FHA. All the key categories of homelessness from this document are now included in the resolution:
[…]homelessness is not merely a lack of physical housing, but is often interrelated with poverty, lack of productive employment and access to infrastructure, as well as other social issues that may constitute a loss of family, community and a sense of belonging, and, depending on national context, can be described as a condition where a person or household lacks habitable space, which may compromise their ability to enjoy social relations, and includes people living on the streets, other open spaces or in buildings not intended for human habitation; people living in temporary accommodation or shelters for the homeless, and, in accordance with national legislation, may include, among others, people living in severely inadequate accommodation without security of tenure and access to basic services”.
The resolution includes a formal written encouragement for Member States to harmonise measurement and collection of data on homelessness. The Resolution strengthens the role of the UN Statistical Commission and emphasises “the need to make concerted efforts to identify people experiencing homelessness”.
During the Commissions debates, both our Coordinator Mark McGreevy and our Commission member Dame Louise Casey highlighted the need of a definition and measurement to end homelessness.
Now, the resolution will have to be approved by the UN Social and Economic Council in the summer, and then by the General Assembly in September. Our long-term aim in to introduce homelessness in the next set of Sustainable Developments Goals planned for 2030.