The Working Group to End Homelessness (WGEH), a coalition of 30 non-governmental organizations, is committed to advocating at the United Nations for the alleviation and eventual elimination of homelessness. It was founded by five Vincentian groups who work together on homelessness at the UN and who continue to play an important role in WGEH activities. An essential aspect of the group is its inclusion of people who have experienced homelessness and housing insecurity, both through membership, partnerships, and foci.
WGEH worked incredibly hard after a successful resolution in 2020 before the Commission on Social Development to keep the pressure on the issue of homelessness at the United Nations. The Resolution passed by the 3rd committee was brought to the General Assembly of 193 Member States in December and it is the General Assembly’s first adoption of a Resolution on homelessness, affirming that this is a global concern– “Inclusive social development policies and programmes to address homelessness, including in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19)” (A/RES/76/133).
At this important time, when the acceleration toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 intersects with the resolving of the global pandemic, we believe that this Resolution can bring this global issue to the forefront of Member States’ efforts to alleviate poverty and to build forward protecting human rights and leaving no one behind. The representative of Madagascar, speaking on behalf of the African Group, introduced the Resolution in the Third Committee, noting with urgency that “many people around the world are vulnerable due to inadequate housing and poverty and that persons experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable and more at risk of contracting communicable diseases, such as COVID‑19.” H. E. Mohamed Siad Doualeh, Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the United Nations, Chair of the Third Committee 76th Session emphasized that “Homelessness is a global concern and must be addressed at the highest level of the General Assembly.”
Recognizing that homelessness constitutes an affront to human dignity and may be an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the human right to an adequate standard of living, including food, health care and housing, the Resolution calls for urgent national and international action to address it. It encourages all Member States to ensure that homelessness policies comply with their international human rights obligations and are consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It urges them to eliminate all forms of discrimination against individuals experiencing homelessness, to enact gender sensitive programs and policies, to decriminalize homelessness and to foster social integration for young people, people with disabilities, migrants and indigenous peoples. It encourages close collaboration and broad-based partnerships at all levels as well as consultation of persons experiencing homelessness and civil society in the development of policies and programmes.
Further, the General Assembly calls on Member States to address the structural drivers of homelessness, including inequalities, poverty, a loss of housing and livelihood as well as a lack of decent job opportunities, access to affordable housing, social protection, land access, and the high costs of energy and health care. The Assembly recognizes the need to implement measures to promote and improve the mental health and well-being of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness including scaling up of comprehensive and integrated psychosocial support services.
Additionally, and one of the key advocacy points of the WGEH, it requests the Statistical Commission to establish global indicators on social protection and access to adequate housing, as well as statistics to monitor homelessness as a way to avoid excluding those who are not “visibly” homeless, through quantitative and qualitative data. It requires the Secretary General to report on progress measured and made by the Member States in two years.
This is important to the Vincentian Family throughout the world and in particular the FAMVIN Homeless Alliance. Each and every Vincentian can bring the plight of homeless individuals to the attention of their local and national government. You are needed to support the work of this Resolution by advocating with persons experiencing homelessness and by urging governments to implement its provisions. If we fail to mobilize as a family this will just be one of the 250 Resolutions passed by the General Assembly in the 76th Session. If we take this work nationally, in the 162 countries where the Vincentian Family is present, we can be a catalyst for change and build a better world where homelessness will be part of our history and not our future. Think Globally, Act Locally!
MaryAnn Dantuono, AIC-International (AIC) Representative to the United Nations