Over two years of advocacy at the United Nations are coming to fruition this week and next during the UN’s 58th Commission for Social Development. The Vincentian Family and other non-governmental organization representatives have been pushing an agenda related to ending homelessness, hoping for it to be tabled at a major UN Commission. Eventually, it was named as a priority theme for the Commission. For the first time in 75 years, the Commission is now specifically addressing homelessness through the theme, “Affordable Housing and Social Protection for All to End Homelessness.”

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The Vincentian Family NGOs (and many others) hope that the Commissions’ Bureau will pass a resolution calling for nations to count and monitor homelessness.  Those are foundational steps in addressing the plight of homelessness.

The Commission began for NGOs on Sunday, when they attended an orientation at the UN Church Center. The orientation provided an outline of the UN’s major bodies, what occurs during the Commission, the meaning of social protection, and a summary of a civil society statement prepared for the Commission. It was followed by an orientation to the Justice Coalition of Religious (JCOR), a group of 19 religious women and men’s communities collaborating to address the root causes of social and environmental justice.  Among participants were Ellen LaCapria, DC, and Margaret Tuley, DC.

Members of the Institute for Global Homelessness and the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance were present for the launch of a book entitled, Street Homelessness and Catholic Theological Ethics,  on Monday at the UN Church Center.  It was co-edited by Mark McGreevy and Fr. James F. Keenan.  Mr. McGreevy reiterated the importance of counting homeless people so that progress can be assessed.  Fr. Keenan spoke of a culture of recognition, in which people experiencing homelessness are seen rather than ignored.  A panel of speakers was moderated by Fr. Guillermo Campuzano, CM.

Meanwhile, Dame Louise Casey, Chair of the Institute for Global Homelessness, moderated a high level panel of speakers on the priority theme on Monday afternoon.  She, too, spoke of the importance of counting and monitoring homelessness.

Mary McAlese, former President of Ireland, offered the keynote talk on homelessness Monday afternoon.

“A safe, affordable and adequate home should be the right and the experience of each human being,” she said. “It is a prerequisite of human flourishing, a basic element of healthy, holistic human development.”

Mrs. McAlese was honored Tuesday evening with the Woman of Courage Award, bestowed by UNANIMA, a group of 23 religious communities.

On Tuesday, Sr. Margaret O’Dwyer, DC, spoke of the Daughters of Charity services to street children in Ghana on a panel entitled, “The Hidden Faces of Family Homelessness from the Perspective of Women and Children/Girls.”  Following that event, Mr. McGreevy spoke about homelessness and inequalities during a panel entitled, “The Links between Inequalities, Inadequate Housing, and Homelessness.”

McGreevy moderated a multi-stakeholder panel on the priority theme on Wednesday, which focused on sharing solutions.  Sr. Margaret spoke on a panel entitled, “Women’s Rights to affordable housing and secure tenure: key to ending homelessness.”

The Commission wraps up next week, at which time NGOs hope to hear that a resolution related to homelessness has been approved.


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