In September 2017 the Vincentian Family at the UN gathered at St. John’s for our first annual planning meeting.  With our Vincentian love as a basis, while respecting the wishes of the leadership of our individual organizations, we spent a long day working to clarify our joint mission as Vincentians representing the under-served throughout the world at the UN.

During our time together, we were able to identify global street homelessness as our number one priority. As we talked, we recognized the lack of focus on street homelessness at the UN. While there are many working groups discussing other global issues, there was not one working group to bring homelessness to the Member States for discussion.  Without the safety and stability of a home, people living in poverty cannot move out of poverty.

An idea was born!

We decided to organize a new working group at the UN.

After preliminary inquiries, we got to work. It was quickly decided that this would be bigger than us alone, so we invited other NGOs to join us.

The Working Group to End Homelessness, WGEH is now a reality. While it was the brainchild of the Vincentian Family in true Vincentian spirit, we have “birthed” the idea and sent it off to be its own entity. We all remain as members of WGEH, while taking a step back, allowing other capable NGO representatives to have “shared ownership” if you will.

The WGEH is making an impact, having just presented a statement to the UN, and by presenting the first side event on Tuesday, September 30th, less than one year from the inception.

In our statement we are “urging the Commission to focus on unsheltered homelessness and access to adequate housing in its discussion of social protection policies by:

  • Calling upon Member States to provide adequate shelter to all persons regardless of gender, age, disability, legal, institutional, or socio-economic status that is safe, secure, and accessible; and to measure and monitor the extent of homelessness, particularly unsheltered homelessness.
  • Urging regional and global stakeholders to promote efforts to assess progress toward ending homelessness in a way that is meaningful and consistent across all countries, including support of practices of enumerating the homeless population, particularly the unsheltered population, to provide a benchmark from which Member States can mark progress toward the progressive right to housing.”……

The WGEH partnered with IGH, and UN Habitat to present a very successful side event, a panel discussion, moderated by Eileen Reilly, Representative of the SSND to the UN. The speakers included Mr. Chris Williams, Director of UN Habitat NY; Ms. Monica Jahangir, Representative to the UN for ATD Fourth World; and Mr. Jake Maguire, Co-Director of Community Solutions. Our own Fr. Memo filled in for Kat Johnson, Director of the Institute for Global Homelessness.

I began by talking about our planning meeting of 2017, I’d like to share our 2018 meeting with you. We met again in September at St. John’s, to follow up on our plans of last year, to evaluate our progress, or lack thereof. I’m happy to report, we’ve made good progress during the last year, we met our goal of establishing a much-needed working group. We’ve also grown closer as a family of Vincentians, we have found our strengths and weaknesses, and we have great respect for each other, we work well together while respecting our individual organizations.

With the formation of WGEH we are no longer focused on street homelessness as we were before. “We’re working in the context of the larger group, the WGEH and do not wish to duplicate activities within the UN Famvin group. And its formation is a measure of our success.”

While we are all members of the WGEH, we are also members of several other working groups focused on other vital issues, including human trafficking, women and girls, climate change, etc.

Pattie Hughes, SVdP

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