The United Nations human rights expert on housing today commended a large media initiative in the US city of San Francisco aimed at bringing the issue of homelessness to the forefront of discussions and encourage civil engagement.

“The portrayal of homeless people in the media has a significant impact on public perception and empathy,” Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, said in a statement issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). “I believe the San Francisco media push will encourage other media to report on homelessness in new ways, with a view to assessing accountability and offering solutions.”

The five-day media initiative led by a local daily newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, and starting on 29 June, will feature stories on multiple causes of homelessness and potential solutions. It will involve almost 70 local, national and international news outlets.

Describing homelessness as a “human catastrophe,” Ms. Farha urged all governments to recognize it as a human rights crisis and commit to eradicating this global phenomenon by 2030, in line with the new Sustainable Development Goals. “The media have an important role to play in this – without public pressure, this global crisis will continue,” she noted.

Ms. Farha also noted that the initiative is an opportunity to “shift the conversation” on homelessness from one of individual failure to government responsibility and systemic causes.

In her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur had noted that homelessness is a fact of life in all countries of the world, regardless of the level of development of their economic or governance systems. Underlining homelessness as “one of the most egregious violations” of the right to housing, she urged UN Member States to address its root causes by implementing national strategies “anchored” in human rights.

Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

via UN News Centre