From income-linked caps on rents and homebuilding incentives to the power of sport to affect change, speakers today put forward a range of potential solutions to the complex and global challenge of homelessness, as the Commission for Social Development concluded the general debate of its fifty-eighth session.
Zimbabwe’s Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Paul Mavima, said that the Commission is right to focus on homelessness this year in light of recent devastating natural disasters, including in Southern Africa. The fact that about 15 million people per year are forcibly evicted from their homes constitutes a “clarion call for action”, he said, emphasizing that developing countries are bearing the burden of hosting most of those displaced.
El Salvador’s representative, stating that access to adequate and affordable housing is a human right, said 97 per cent of housing in developing countries is not ultimately affordable for those for whom it was originally built. She also put a spotlight on her country’s dynamic construction sector and outlined Government efforts to incentivize investments in affordable and social housing.
The Russian Federation’s delegate outlined a 2018 presidential decree aimed at connecting middle-income families with cheaper homes. Not only is the country building more homes each year, but it also recently introduced the use of escrow accounts to withhold funds from builders until housing units are fully completed.
Bhutan’s representative said that, with more and more Bhutanese moving to urban areas, a revised national housing policy is aiming to improve access to quality affordable housing. Specific policy measures include regulations that cap rents at no more than 30 per cent of household income.
Monaco’s delegate called sport an excellent tool for social development — one that allows the homeless, in particular, to maintain social links, increase self-confidence, protect their health and facilitate their reintegration into society.
The representative of the Consortium for Street Children — one of several civil society delegates taking the floor today — said homeless youngsters living and working on the street are not only being left behind, but also being left out of Government data. UNANIMA International’s speaker, in the same vein, said that women, children and girls are particularly vulnerable to the systemic and structural causes of homelessness.
The representative of the New York-based New Future Foundation called for a resolution on the question of predatory lending fraud, which she called the leading cause of homelessness in the United States. Her counterpart from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) described the manner in which HIV is both a driver and a cause of homelessness.
Several speakers underscored their countries’ solidarity with China as it responds to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
In other business, Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Inclusive Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, presented a brief update on the Division’s proposed programme plan for 2021.
The Commission also decided to nominate Godwin Rapando Murunga (Kenya) to fill an outstanding vacancy on the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) for a four-year term beginning after confirmation by the Economic and Social Council on a date no sooner than 1 July 2020 and expiring on 30 June 2024.
Also speaking today were representatives of India, Armenia, Oman, Chile, Spain, Republic of Korea, Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Ethiopia, Cabo Verde, Cameroon and Djibouti, as well as several intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.
The Observer of the Holy See also spoke.
The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 February, to act on draft proposals and conclude its work.
PAUL MAVIMA, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe, associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said the Commission’s focus on homelessness is appropriate in light of recent devastating storms and other natural disasters — including Tropical Cyclone Idai which caused significant destruction in his country, along with Malawi and Mozambique, in March 2019. “Cyclones are but one manifestation of the effects of climate change in developing countries,” he said, citing other results such as political insecurity, conflicts, curtailed growth and exacerbated homelessness. The fact that about 15 million people per year are forcibly evicted from their homes constitutes a “clarion call for action”, he stressed, noting that developing countries inevitably host most of those displaced. More than 800 million people live in slums or informal settlements, with sub-Saharan Africa hosting 238 million of those. In that context, he called on all stakeholders to remain engaged in the fights against homelessness and climate change — and to prioritize the most vulnerable — and outlined Zimbabwe’s own social protection system.
PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India) said that equitable access to affordable housing and social protection for the vulnerable are key to preventing homelessness. In India, the Government is aiming to ensure that every citizen will have a house with basic services by 2022, the country’s seventy-fifth year of independence. To achieve that goal, the Affordable Housing for All programme is being implemented separately in rural and urban areas, with 18.4 million houses already having been built. Titles for each home is under the name of the woman head of the household or held co-jointly, she said, adding that the programme also facilitates the adoption of green and disaster-resistant building materials and construction techniques. She went on to list other innovative measures that India is adopting to improve its social safety net, including a biometric-based identification system called Aadhaar that facilitates access to social protection services. It is also implementing the world’s largest universal health-care programme, covering 500 million people.
ZOYA STEPANYAN (Armenia) said that, in recent years, her country has embarked on broad reforms of its economic and social policies, placing human rights-based, inclusive and targeted social development at the core of every national-level action. The Government aims to eradicate poverty through the promotion of labour, equal economic opportunities and advanced public services. Noting that State allocations to social protection has increased up to 20 per cent in two years, she said that the actual employment rate has increased by 2.5 percentage points in one year’s time. As the country’s 2018 economic and political transformation required the revision of its employment policy, she outlined subsequent efforts to close the gender wage gap, protect labour rights and promote corporate social responsibility. Other recent efforts have included the expansion of health-care coverage and a six-fold increase in funding to address housing needs, which had risen significantly following a devastating earthquake in 1988. Armenia also hosts around 22,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria, providing them with comprehensive assistance, durable housing, free medical support and scholarships, she said.
CÉDRIC BRAQUETTI (Monaco), noting that the Principality invests more than 8 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in social security and health care, said that social protection systems are instruments for macroeconomic stability. For its Government, affordable housing access is a priority, particularly for vulnerable groups. He emphasized that sport is an excellent tool for social development, allowing the homeless in particular to maintain social links, increase self-confidence, protect their health and facilitate their reintegration into society. Monaco has also invested in several technological solutions, enabling it to develop health and educational services that are free of charge for all.
AHMED DAWOOD ALI AL ZADJALI (Oman) said that public-private partnership is taking his country into a new era of housing services. Oman now ranks second in the world in terms of home ownership rates, he said, adding that it is also one of the few countries that provides land for housing without discrimination between men and women. He also underscored the importance that the Government attaches to children and the elderly to ensure access to shelter and decent care.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that his country is working to drive truly inclusive social development and eradicate poverty and gaps. This requires not only Government policy but also strong partnerships with civil society and the private sector. Spotlighting challenges presented by demographic changes and advancing technology, he said those should be harnessed to enhance labour and promote the participation of older persons, should they wish. Noting that Chile ratified the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons, he said that the Social Development and Family Ministry is in charge of designing policies to reduce poverty and social vulnerability and promoting mobility and social integration. In that vein, he outlined specific interventions for those living on the street, which include the provision of social services, psychological care, employment training and tutors.
MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that support for vulnerable persons has been patchy in many countries and driven many around the world to live on the street. Emphasizing that access to adequate and affordable housing is a human right, she said that El Salvador is committed to providing shelter to all its people and has provided a Ministry for Housing to push forward that effort. Noting that 97 per cent of housing in developing countries is not ultimately affordable for those for whom it was originally built, she spotlighted El Salvador’s dynamic construction sector and outlined Government efforts to incentivize investments in affordable and social housing through mutual assistance projects. These projects also connect labourers to the construction of social housing, creating new jobs. She went on to outline El Salvador’s broader comprehensive programme for sustainable human settlements, which incorporates such elements as strategic urban interventions and the innovative use of new technology.
JESÚS MARÍA LAVALLE MERCHÁN (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, said that the social dimension of Spain is the hallmark of its identity. Immediate rehousing is available for people in vulnerable situations or subjected to mortgage foreclosure. He discussed the Government’s efforts to address an ageing population, including a national strategy to improve the rights of older workers. He noted the growing use by older persons of new ways to communicate, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as social tourism programmes that enable about 1 million pensioners to benefit from package tours at very competitive prices. Spain is also implementing national strategies to address undesired loneliness and to guarantee the rights and dignity of persons with Alzheimer’s disease.
HONG JIN UM (Republic of Korea) said that the Government puts special emphasis on measures to ensure that everyone has access to safe affordable housing, particularly the homeless and other marginalized groups. Through its Housing Affairs Roadmap, it aims to increase the supply of public housing, he said, adding that Government officials visit homeless persons to encourage them to move into public housing. Noting the country’s rapidly ageing population, he said that the Government extends subsidies to employers to retain workers past their age of retirement. He went on to express the Republic of Korea’s hope that China will continue to cooperate with the international community to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
MARIAME FOFANA (Burkina Faso), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said 2020 provides a chance for the international community and the Commission to take stock of its work in social development. Underlining the need to prioritize poor and vulnerable people, she said that Burkina Faso bases its policies not only on economic growth but also on the inclusion of all social strata. The effects of those commitments have reduced social and gender-based inequality, she said, spotlighting strides in education and the provision of free health care to children under 5 and pregnant women. Contraception is now universally provided, as are cervical cancer screenings, and the Government built more than 35,000 housing units between 2016 and 2020. Drawing attention to a recent spike in terrorist attacks in the north of the country — and the resulting displacement of some 765,000 people — she said that many of those fleeing people now live in terrible conditions and their rising needs have put pressure on the Government and host communities. In that regard, she underlined the need for more international support for the country’s emergency response, as well as the coordination of all interventions.
OMAR CASTAÑEDA SOLARES (Guatemala), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said that his country is one of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Among other things, Guatemala suffers from structural gaps in the provision of health care, housing and decent employment. Spotlighting an estimated deficit of about 1.8 million housing units, he said the Government now targets its interventions to those most vulnerable, including through the provision of direct subsidies. Guatemala is working in line with the 2002 Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing to combat age discrimination, he said, pointing out that Latin America is one of the few regions of the world that has enacted a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. “We need to work with fresh vigour to implement the Sustainable Development Goals […] and focus on the development of the human person,” he said.
MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said that despite progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, “too many people are still poor” and disparities between regions and within some States remain a legitimate concern. Joint action must be accelerated to address all outstanding sustainable development challenges by 2030. Morocco is convinced that the fight against poverty, injustice and climate change is a fight for justice and peace around the world. She underscored the political, economic, social and religious reforms that Morocco has been implementing at all levels to reinforce good governance, the rule of law and democracy. That includes a national initiative for social development, launched by King Mohammed VI in 2005, which aims to promote the country’s human capital. On homelessness, she urged the international community to highlight the different aspects of the phenomenon and exchange best practices.
KOUADJO MICHEL KOUAKOU (Côte d’Ivoire), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that homelessness is aggravated by armed conflict, natural disasters and climate change. Despite international efforts, the issue remains a source of concern and requires more investment in social protection systems. He drew attention to the national social protection strategy that the Government adopted in 2014 to eradicate poverty, strengthen the resilience of the population and better manage risks. A national social and economic housing programme aims to provide 75,000 housing units.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) agreed that homelessness is a global challenge affecting both developed and developing countries. Calling for a comprehensive approach to the issue which tackles such driving factors as poverty, inequality, lack of decent work and lack of affordable housing, he outlined his country’s 2018 presidential decree aimed at connecting middle-income families with cheaper homes. The Russian Federation has increased its building of housing units each year and recently introduced a new model to the construction market, which uses escrow accounts to withhold funds from a company until housing units are fully completed. He also outlined the provision of various social support services, including cash benefits to women when they have children, adding that a diverse range of assistance — including night shelters and employment services — is provided to homeless people across the country.
ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali), associating himself with Group of 77 and the African Group, said that affordable housing and social protection are among the priorities covered under the National Social Development Policy. That strategy provides for cash transfers to vulnerable households, support for older persons and those with disabilities, access to basic services and a national minimum income for all workers. The Government views access to affordable housing as a human right and has provided more than 100,000 new housing units to those in need. It also provides housing support to refugees, migrants and other members of the Malian diaspora.
GEBEYEHU GANGA GAYITO (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that the session’s priority theme reflects the principle — at the core of Ethiopia’s Constitution — of the right to an adequate living standard. Social protection has long been an integral part of the country’s development policies, as well as its efforts to eradicate poverty and build a prosperous nation. In 2003, it enacted a “condominium proclamation” concentrating on urban areas and focusing on the urgent needs of those with few financial means, through the provision of decent housing and extended payment periods. Ethiopia also provides incentives such as credit facilities to those who form cooperatives to build condominiums and license private housing to engage in the construction of such homes.
JOSÉ LUIS FIALHO ROCHA (Cabo Verde), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that his country’s Constitution states all citizens have the right to adequate housing, and pointed to housing programmes such as Casa para Todos — “House for All” — as one initiative to promote its affordability. Despite efforts made, Cabo Verde still faces challenges including improving the housing system, and better urban planning to overcome illegal construction in slums. He noted that homelessness is not yet a major problem but shows signs of increasing alongside urban growth. As a small island developing State, Cabo Verde faces recurrent drought, volcanic eruptions and floods, economic opportunities limited by scale and distance from markets, and regional inequalities between islands. Gaps in mobilizing domestic resources exceed the Government’s current capacity, he stated, requiring international cooperation and partnership.
ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon) said that 25 years after the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development was adopted, the eradication of poverty and social reintegration remain major challenges for all States, particularly in developing countries. States must set up strategies to reduce inequalities in housing as much as possible while also guaranteeing basic social services for the most vulnerable. Cameroon’s efforts to fight homelessness centre on facilitating access to land and housing for all levels of society, he said, including the establishment of land reserves in almost 30 localities, as well as the finalization of land reform to encourage public and private housing enterprises. An interministerial committee is addressing the challenge of street children, he added.
DOMA TSHERING (Bhutan), associating herself with the Group of 77, said that her country, guided by its Gross National Happiness development framework, puts a special focus on quality health care and education for all to eradicate poverty, which is the primary cause of homelessness. Revisions to the national housing policy in 2019 aim to improve access to quality affordable housing as more and more people move into urban areas. Specific policy measures include regulations that ensure that housing rents do not exceed 30 per cent of household income. Bhutan’s traditional Kidu system, similar to means-tested social aid, remains an effective way to uplift the poor and vulnerable through the provision of land and other social benefits, she added. It demonstrates how integrating traditional systems into Government mechanisms can help address inequality.
GABRIELE GIORDANO CACCIA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, stressed the need to address homelessness at various levels, including “frontline” assistance on the street. The homeless require food, clothing and a roof over their heads. Soup kitchens, shelters and daycentres operated by dioceses and parishes, religious orders and volunteer associations provide such assistance. Offering spiritual care and job training is also vital. At the national level, further studies are needed to determine the causes of homelessness. At the international level, the universally recognized right to an adequate standard of living should not only be considered in this Commission. The various human rights forums of the United Nations should place greater emphasis on this social right.
EWA STAWORZYNSKA, International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for the United Nations, said that only 29 per cent of the global population has access to comprehensive social protection systems throughout the human lifecycle. For many, the lack of social protection is associated with inadequate housing or may even lead to homelessness. In that vein, she called on stakeholders to help seize upon the opportunities provided by the shifting nature of work, as recognized recently in the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work. She spotlighted the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals — co-chaired by ILO and the World Bank — as a platform for Governments and others to promote universal social protection schemes. Among other steps, she said stakeholders should consider the implementation of social protection floors and a basic level of social protection throughout the lifecycle; accelerating progress towards universal social protection for all; ensuring sustainable and equitable financing for social protection systems; designing social protection systems that are non-discriminatory in nature and sensitive to special needs; and adapting social protection programmes to future needs.
Ms. TINO, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said that recent gains from economic growth and progress in social development have disproportionately benefitted the already privileged, resulting in deepening and widening inequalities between and within countries. Many people also face increasing challenges caused by vulnerable employment situations, as well as natural disasters, urbanization and changing family structures. Most countries in South and South-East Asia spend less than 2 per cent of GDP on social protection. Such acute underinvestment is the reason why 60 per cent of the population in the region has no protection if they become pregnant, sick, unemployed, or when they get old or become disabled. Social protection is the key to leaving no one behind in Asia and the Pacific. Increasing the region’s investment in social protection to the global average could be a game changer for poverty reduction.
NINAN VARUGHESE, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that homelessness can be both a cause and an effect of HIV. Homeless persons are often exposed to greater HIV risk, while living with HIV can affect an individual’s employment, income and housing status. HIV-related social exclusion, stigma and discrimination also contribute to homelessness. He called on Member States and other partners to accelerate efforts to implement the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, which encouraged Member States to strengthen national social protection systems to ensure that, by 2020, 75 per cent of people living with, at risk of and affected by HIV who are in need will benefit from HIV-sensitive social protection, including cash transfers and equal access to housing.
CAROLINE FORD, Consortium for Street Children, said that her organization’s research shows that the most vulnerable — including homeless children living and working on the street — are being left behind and even excluded from data collected by Governments. “Many children not registered at birth are simply not captured,” she said, noting that they, therefore, remain invisible and outside of national safety nets. Noting that Sustainable Development Goal 1 — and in particular its indicator 1.3.1 — seeks to measure the proportion of children reached by social protection measures, she cited recent data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) showing that an estimated 35 per cent of children around the world are covered. “But if this data is based on traditional measures […] from which street children are excluded, we cannot say with any certainly how many children are reached,” she stressed. Data that do exist on street children are often outdated or flawed and are, therefore, not comparable across cities or time. Against that backdrop, she urged Governments to put in place stronger data collection methods focused on street children and other invisible populations and to develop policies that take them into account.
SERGEI ZELENEV, International Council on Social Welfare, said that combating homelessness cannot be divorced from other burning issues such as poverty eradication, employment promotion and social inclusion. The interlinked economic and social dimensions of inclusion should be considered in the provision of social housing or upgrading of slums. Successful social policy must be holistic in nature, with cross-sectoral policymaking that goes beyond a piecemeal approach, he said, warning against compartmentalization that betrays both the equity and efficiency of proposed programmes.
DELOIS BLAKELY, New Future Foundation, citing recent United States Council of Economic Advisers of the White House statements, said that more than half a million people are homeless on any given night in the country, with only 65 per cent sleeping in shelters and the rest finding themselves on the streets due to desperate situations of extreme hardship. Pointing out that the United States is a signatory of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognizes housing as a human right, she said that the failure to provide adequate housing affects these rights, adding that some effects of not having a home are mental illness, assault, substance dependency and mortality. The ongoing predatory lending fraud is the leading cause of homelessness in the United States and “is a silent killer” and “home-wrecker”, with lending institutions unfairly targeting vulnerable populations. As such, it is high time to draft a resolution to settle the issue of predatory lending fraud.
FRANCESCA TORCASIO BARBERIS, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Loreto Generalate, said that inadequate social protection, the commodification of housing and climate challenges are among the factors exacerbating homelessness. Meanwhile, girls and women are often not recognized as unique populations affected by homelessness, and current policy often does not address their needs. Among other things, women are at greater risk of being trafficked or suffering abuse and require the provision of sanitary and other specialized products. “I am here as a young woman to request the more sincere engagement of girls and young women […] in decision-making processes,” she said.
FAITH KABORA, World Youth Alliance, said policies should not assume that people are merely beneficiaries of development. “Human beings are our greatest resource,” she said, underlining the inherent dignity and agency of people in vulnerable situations. Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education should be incorporated into all social development policies, aiming to provide people with the skills to better their own futures. All people should be empowered to use their unique capacities and gifts, and human dignity should remain at the centre of sustainable development, she added.
KIRIN TAYLOR, UNANIMA International, spoke on behalf of the Working Group to End Homelessness, saying that the Commission’s primary theme requires discussing hidden homelessness, particularly among women, children and girls. Citing research in several countries by UNANIMA International, she said that women, children and girls are particularly vulnerable to the systemic and structural causes of homelessness. She cited several real-world examples, including slum-dwelling families left homeless by flooding, women fleeing domestic violence and youth forced out of overcrowded homes. The cycles of poverty and complacency must be broken, she said, calling for homelessness to be tackled as a human rights and civil rights issue.
SYLVIA HORDOSCH, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said that the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is crucial to achieving sustainable and social development goals. Noting that the forthcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take stock of progress achieved, she said the national reports submitted to date indicate that much remains to be done. Significant gaps persist in achieving gender parity in decision-making processes, discrimination continues to exist, climate change continues to impact women more than men, and rapid technological changes now bring opportunities but also new risks for women and girls. Calling for the simultaneous implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said that the commemorations of the former’s twenty-fifth anniversary — known as “Beijing+25” — will culminate in a high-level meeting of the General Assembly in September.
Ms. SCHUTZ, Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, recounted the story of two women who demonstrated recently in Oakland, California, United States, on behalf of the organization Moms for Housing. Outlining the various challenges each had faced in finding adequate housing, she said neoliberal economics continue to perpetuate negative, gendered housing systems as part of their reliance on markets. For example, prostitution and human trafficking offer to put a roof over the head of women and girls who agree to enter exploitative situations. “Housing is a human right and should not be financialized,” she stressed.
Ms. RAMIREZ, FEMM Foundation, said that by some estimates, 70 per cent of the world’s homeless are women who have little real access to doctors or clinics. Health is an issue that must be addressed to reduce homelessness. She emphasized the importance of hormonal health, adding that women who know their bodies can make informed choices about their health. She urged Member States to invest in health care that meets women’s needs.
YOUSSOUF ADEN MOUSSA (Djibouti), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that the scope of homelessness in Africa is particularly worrying. Significant resources are required to ensuring housing for all without discrimination. He catalogued some of the measures that the Government is taking to provide better housing for Djibouti’s citizens and underscored the importance of multilateral cooperation to build national capacity.
ADA C. OKIKA, Irene Menakaya School, Onitsha, said her organization works to involve educational and other community stakeholders to address gaps in lifelong learning. It aims to drive a call to action on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education. Outlining the links between education and efforts to combat homelessness, she called on Governments to take adequate measures to realize the human rights to both housing and education.
ROSE THERESE NOLTA, Vivat International, said that homeless people in cities across the world live in subhuman existence. “We cannot turn our backs to this painful reality,” she said, noting that the street homeless population includes those fleeing conflicts; women who are deserted or pushed out of homes due to domestic violence; migrants and climate refugees. She welcomed the Commission’s current discussion, calling on Member States to put those furthest behind first. Governments and other stakeholders should develop a comprehensive approach to the challenge of homelessness based on the experiences of homeless people themselves. In particular, she called on them to build a database of best practices; provide affordable housing and health care to their people; and enhance mechanisms for cooperation among various stakeholders.
JONI CARLEY, Kosmos Associates, Nonviolence International, reminded Member States that General Assembly resolution 65/309 called for a new economic paradigm based on happiness and well-being. That will require a shift from competitive-centred norms to value-centred norms, she said, citing research which found that people value well-being connectedness more than everything else. Placing human rights values at the centre of social development is the only way to move away from homelessness, she added.
STEFANO GENNARINI, Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM), said that Governments must address the human causes of homelessness, first by strengthening the family. Protecting the family is smart policy, he said, adding that when men and women cannot fulfil the fundamental human right of starting a family, financial insecurity and homelessness could follow. He added that with fertility rates declining, social security systems are collapsing, and the situation will get worse without policies that strengthen the family.
Mr. CHAUDHURI, Institute of International Social Development, said that his India-based organization works to help implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Each Government should maintain a fund to help promote housing, employment training and other services for their most vulnerable population. Outlining some of his group’s specific programmes, he spotlighted its construction of eco-friendly housing and support for transportation, noting that they have helped many homeless people get back on their feet.
MANUSHRI DESAI and SHIVAM SARAN, Voice of Specially Abled People, Inc., said homelessness and the marginalization of persons with disabilities go hand in hand. Noting that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities enshrines the right to adequate, affordable and accessible housing, he said that about 1.4 million people in the United States are beneficiaries of a Housing Choice Vouchers programme for low-income persons with disabilities. However, she noted that truly accessible housing is often not available and outlined a range of possible solutions.
JOSEPHINE TYNE, Concepts of Truth Inc., said that her group’s 24/7 telephone helpline has received thousands of calls from women descending into mental illness — and becoming at risk of homelessness — after having received an abortion. She called on Member States to educate their populations about the emotional, physical and psychological impacts of abortion and to provide resources for both women and men “who seek the truth about life”.
ELIZABETH DEFEIS, Fraternité Notre Dame, said that nothing is more ingenious than active and inexhaustible charity. Fraternité Notre Dame turns towards her neighbour, serving thousands of free meals daily. She gives the hungry a decent meal. In certain countries, the organization had contributed to improving people’s housing. Its founder, Rev. Bishop Jean Marie Roger Kozik, is a living image of charity and among those rare men whose virtues pervade and transform society.
AMANDA CARRIER, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, said that a universal definition of homelessness would help ensure the right to adequate housing for all, including those impacted by the extractive sector. States should ensure that business respects human rights, she said, adding that only a paradigm shift will guarantee that companies engaged in extractive industries are held accountable.
MARIA PIA BELLONI MIGNATTI, World Organization for Early Childhood Education, said that children displaced by climate change, natural disasters and conflict are particularly vulnerable to homelessness. They need housing support and access to social safety net programmes. The right to social protection applies to everyone at every stage of life, she said, adding that homeless-related stressors such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder can lead to ineffective parenting practices.