International Homeless Day 10th October 2021
Wisdom is bright and unfading. She readily appears to those who love her. She is found by those who keep seeking after her. (Wisdom 6:12)
We, NGO UNANIMA International, (Organization of 22 Catholic Sisters’communities), and other activists from Civil Society are leading the way in shedding a light on homelessness / Displacement at the United Nations. We feel that for too long homelessness and displacement has been left behind in the general debate across countries and cultures. For the first time in its history, the United Nations is now explicitly addressing Homelessness, Displacement and Affordable Housing, Quality Health Care and Education. This was first seen at the 58th session of the Commission for Social Development in February 2020, with the inclusion of homelessness in its priority theme.
There is clear evidence that Member States/Governments are failing to meet their obligations to provide housing (and the accompanying services/supports such as water and sanitation) as a basic human right. This leaves homelessness and housing inadequacy as two of the most devastating cross-cutting issues we face as a global community. We as religious women, with our partners, demand that governments do better for the women, children, and girls in our communities.
Homelessness / Displacement is a global epidemic that has resulted from, yet also contributes to, shortage of affordable housing, increased migration, and socio-economic crises across countries. It exposes children and parents to a higher risk of traumatic issues, and we know that trauma can be compounded and/or intergenerational, having long term impacts on the people at hand, and their descendants and communities. It is an extremely complex issue, and each person’s circumstances are unique.
Women’s vulnerability to homelessness, displacement and housing insecurity is highly associated with factors related to domestic violence, child marriage, and human trafficking. In short, Homelessness is an intersectional and pervasive issue. It is a threat—not to just those experiencing it (though that is terrible enough)—but by extension to whole communities and our global society, particularly when overlooked, misunderstood, mislabeled, normalized, and unaddressed.
Homelessness will end when we end it together. A home is more than bricks and mortar. Homelessness is not just a housing problem. The homes we envision provide security, well-being, and are places where you put down roots, and become invested in the environment surrounding you. Home is within a community of family and friends. And home is a place where there is access to the services needed to live a fulfilled life.
The drivers of Homelessness and Displacement are complex. Drivers such as addiction, domestic violence, and mental illness, can be compounded by structural forces such as a lack of affordable housing and discrimination, which creates inequity. Some issues relate to governments having neo-liberal economic policies, whereby all housing is transferred to the private sector—meaning the to no interest in building, nor renting houses to people who cannot afford the market rates.
The issue in many countries is that decisions are made from the top down—the view comes from the top of the pyramid! They make decisions which impact people at the bottom, but they have no idea what it is like at the bottom of the pyramid. They know nothing of the experience and are far removed from what the people are thinking and feeling. They make decisions which, very often, are not in the best interest of the people left furthest behind in the world.
“We, as a great human society, we are diminished, we lose the gift of their creativity, the gift of their curiosity, the gift of their potential when it is marooned by all downstream consequences of homelessness.” – Mary McAleese, Former President of Ireland (United Nations February 2020)
- When you see a homeless person, do you look the other way and keep on walking?
- Why does Homelessness / Displacement generate so much debate and confusion?
- Can your community offer safe housing to a homeless family? What might help that happen, or prevent that happening?
- Acknowledge World Homeless Day.
- Educate people about Homelessness, Displacement and Trauma.
- Advocate to end Homelessness.
- Invite a guest speaker to your community to talk about Homelessness.
- Invest in your local and global community.
- Encourage your governments to form an Advisory Group on Homelessness.
- Organize Networking Groups on Homelessness and Displacement
“Under the guidance of the spirit. Our personal relationship with Christ leads us to mission” (Way of Wisdom # 50)
Sr Jean Quinn