DePaul University, in partnership with the Ruff Institute on Global Homelessness and the International Journal on Homelessness, hosted what may have been the largest-ever convening on global homelessness. From March 21-23, nearly 300 people gathered in person, with an additional 65 guests online, for three days of local program site visits, plenary talks, and breakout sessions all related to the topic of homelessness.
Session topics covered a variety of themes. Topics ranged from youth homelessness, to providing housing and homeless services in war zones like Ukraine, to using data to inform decisions on how to address homelessness, to racial justice as a core component of systemic change. More than 20 countries were represented, and translation was provided into five different languages.
The final session of the entire conference featured Vincentian priest Fr. Memo Campuzano, Vice President of Mission and Ministry at DePaul University; Jim Claffey, member of the United Nations NGO Working Group to End Homelessness (WGEH); and Lydia Stazen, Executive Director of the Ruff Institute on Global Homelessness. Fr. Memo, Jim, and Lydia dialogued about the history and accomplishments of Vincentian advocacy at the United Nations, and laid out the importance of the next six months of advocacy in maximizing two critical opportunities.
The first opportunity is the High Level Political Forum this July, where 40 countries will report on Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities) in their Voluntary National Review. The WGEH is advocating with these 40 Member States to include homelessness as part of their report, and is planning a side event to draw attention to the importance of including homelessness in the framework of the 2030 Agenda.
The second opportunity is the Secretary-General’s forthcoming report on global homelessness, which will be released at the 2023 General Assembly. Members of the WGEH have been working closely with the report writer, assisting in the development and dissemination of a global questionnaire, and facilitating regional and special consultations as the UN gathers information for the report. The WGEH again is planning a series of activities to draw attention to this report and to advocate for additional actions to address and end homelessness.
Jim recalled a motto from another Vincentian advocacy group, “get in the way, get out of the way, and model a new way.” Jim explained that we are to use whatever positions of power and privilege we have to disrupt business as usual, hand the microphone over to those who are most impacted by the issue, and walk the talk by behaving in ways that align with our vision of the future.
At the end of the session, Fr. Memo, Jim, and Lydia called for those present to become active members of the WGEH. This is a mission that transcends “the advocacy of the logo” and requires all of us and our organizations to speak with one voice and demand more global action on homelessness. You can read more about and join the WGEH here. And please Save the Date of May 2025, for the next conference to be held in Santiago, Chile. We look forward to seeing you there!