The Vincentian Family at the UN has been focused on homelessness for a couple of years now, anyone who reads our essays is well aware of this fact. We’ve worked diligently organizing the working group, The Working Group to End Homelessness, and we were successful in lobbying the member states to consider adopting homelessness as the theme for the upcoming CSocD 2020 (Commission on Social Development). Our hard work will be quite visible when CSocD 2020 convenes in a few weeks.
In spite of all this great success I find myself wondering if we’re doing enough.
I recently read of several women living on the streets of Dublin who have died while sleeping outside during the frigid nights. In Ireland sleeping on the street is known as “Sleeping rough” or “Rough sleepers.” I can’t think of a more appropriate way to describe sleeping on the street.
Much closer to home and my heart, I had the blessing to meet an extraordinary man. This man was introduced to me by someone working in the music office of my parish. His name was Marcello, although he was known within the music world of NYC as “The Maestro.” Marcello was an elderly man born and raised by well to do parents in Rome. His father was a well known composer, revered by many opera singers. We believe Marcello came to New York legally, but perhaps overstayed his VISA, causing him to be listed as illegal, or undocumented. He spent his life in New York City tutoring opera singers, he coached their beautiful voices and their Italian accents.
When I met him, he was living on the streets of New York City. His clothes were dirty and tattered. He was drawn and tired in appearance.In spite of his hardship and appearance he had a smile that warmed my heart. During our first meeting he shared with me that he had been sleeping in the men’s room at a local fast food restaurant during the recent blizzard.
Although he was adored by his students he managed to hide his homelessness from those who loved and respected him. While they knew he didn’t have an apartment of his own each thought he was staying with someone else. Through all his difficulties he never lost his deep faith. He attended daily mass and spoke often of Padre Pio.
The good news for Marcello was that we were in a position to assist him. Once we met, he never spent another night on the street. Marcello became ill last year, he was diagnosed with cancer. We stayed with him during his illness, even finding hospice care for him in the end. Marcello passed from this world surrounded by Sisters at the hospice. He was given a proper funeral and buried with dignity.
By all accounts Marcello was an angel walking among us. I was blessed to know him! He will be forever in my heart. Having such a beautiful person in my life as we were organizing the working group was a constant reminder of who we are serving at the UN.
For every Marcello there are many thousands more we haven’t met still sleeping on the streets. We’re advocates for all who are waiting for a place to call home. Our advocacy is for housing first programs. Let’s get folks into housing, then work on the issues. There are more than 100 million people living without homes throughout the world. There are 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) at the UN. None mention homelessness directly, however there are a couple that I see as touching on homelessness.
SDG 1 No Poverty.
Clearly this is one reason for homelessness. Without resources one cannot pay for a home. It’s a simple fact. With uneven distribution of wealth those living in poverty may not have a place to call home.
SDG 3 Good Health and Well-being.
It’s extremely difficult to remain in good health without a home.
To read more about the SDG’s go to UN.org
To read more about the efforts of the Vincentian Family on homelessness, go to IGH.org, they have much research on global homelessness.
Pattie Hughes, SSVP at the United Nations