“Seeing” Homelessness Through Data

by | May 30, 2024 | Formation, Vincentian Family at the U.N. | 0 comments

Street homelessness is in many ways a very visible social and infrastructure issue, while sheltered homelessness and inadequate housing are less obvious to the observer. However, all forms of homelessness are largely invisible when it comes to data, and thus the issue of homelessness remains unaddressed at many levels, including local, national, and global levels.

Many efforts are underway to improve data collection, including through the European Platform on Homelessness which comprises the 27 countries in the European Union. The platform recently released its guidelines and recommendations for Member States to improve upon making the invisible visible through data. Additionally, the OECD released their latest report on homelessness data in countries with developed economies which shows that more than 2 million people experience homelessness in those regions, according to available data. The Ruff Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) has also updated its Better Homeless Data Project, collating publicly available data on homelessness from many regions and more than 70 countries around the world. Given the different definitions of homelessness and the different methodologies used to collect data, these numbers are almost certainly undercounts.

While data collection can sometimes seem so far removed from the experience of homelessness on the streets or in shelters, making the invisible visible through data can drive action and accountable. Data can be used to highlight the scale and scope of homelessness, as well as underline the fact that it is an issue faced by every country in the world. Data can make plain the global drivers of homelessness which include inequalities, war and displacement, and climate induced migration. Policy makers and funders at all levels may be convinced to take action because of the data, and the data can show the size and type of investments that need to be made in housing and services for people experiencing homelessness. Data trends can be used over time to develop further policies and programs. Homelessness must be seen through the data as one critical aspect of solving it.

In the spirit of Saint Vincent de Paul who looked for and cared for people living on the margins of society, we believe that in our modern age, data is one critical way we must look for people experiencing homelessness and a lever that can be used to drive further care and concern. We recognize that behind each data point is a person living through the trauma of homelessness and housing instability, and we join with our global partners and colleagues to strengthen data collection efforts in order to drive effective action.

By Lydia Stazen, Ruff Institute of Global Homelessness


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