April 23, 2019

Ending Homelessness -an Emerging Priority for Mercy Global Action

Under the umbrella of Displacement of Persons, one of the thematic areas identified during the Mercy International Reflection Process (MIRP), homelessness has emerged as a key advocacy concern from Mercy Global Action (MGA). In 2018, MGA joined the United Nations NGO Working Group to End Homelessness (WGEH) to bolster its advocacy for the eradication of homelessness and the realisation of the human right to adequate housing for all.

As a member of the WGEH, MGA signed on to a written statement for the 57th Commission on Social Development (CSocD57). The statement urges the Commission to address the multifaceted problem of housing exclusion and street homelessness. Read the full statement here. In addition, MGA helped organise WGEH side-event titled “Homelessness: A prominent Sign of Social inequalities” during CSocD57 with the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations and Institute of Global Homelessness as co-sponsors. The event brought together advocates, researchers, policy makers and people living on the streets to explore the structural causes of homelessness and advocate for a human rights-based response to homelessness.

In February 2019, through WGEH, MGA participated in a two-day conference to discuss opportunities for coordinating existing efforts around ending homelessness and strategizing for effective advocacy at the United Nations. The conference brought together six members of the WGEH, representatives from Institute for Global Homelessness (IGH), National Alliance to End Homelessness, Depaul International, Community Solutions, and a representative from FEANTSA, the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless. The discussions throughout the two-day conference focused on concrete actions in the areas of advocacy, research, education and engagement. Some of the agreed initial strategies include; raise the global profile of homelessness, push for a global measurement of homelessness, and achieve agreement on a global goals related to homelessness. Based on the outcomes from the conference, the WGEH has drafted a strategic matrix document, which outlines our advocacy priorities, our partnerships, operational and functional structure moving forward. A final draft of this document will soon be available for sharing.

Following the conference, Mercy Global Action along with members of the WGEH continued our efforts to mobilize support among UN Member States to vote for homelessness as the priority theme the 58th meeting of the UN Commission on Social Development (CSocD58). The negotiations among member states were contentions as there were five other issues competing to be the priority theme. We are happy to share that the selected priority theme for CSocD58, which will take place in 2020, is “Affordable Housing and Social Protection for All to Address Homelessness.” This gives MGA about a twelve-month lead in to set our advocacy points and policy recommendations in order to effectively advocate and influence the outcome of the Draft resolution.

As a priority theme of next year’s CSocD, the urgent need to address global homelessness will be on the UN Agenda for the first time. As is the practice, the Secretary General will release a report on the priority theme, this means the global situation of homelessness and the need for affordable housing and social protection will be brought to the forefront. Additionally, at the end of CSocD58 in 2010, a draft resolution will hopefully be passed, which will seek to establish agreed language and definition of homelessness. WGEH has started working on a zero draft resolution, which we will provide to the CSocD58 committee responsible for drafting the UN resolution. Additionally, WGEH hopes to build a partnership with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the department responsible for facilitating agreement on resolutions for the Commission for Social Development, in order to move our advocacy agenda forward during CSocD58.

Mercy Global Action is encouraged by this critical step the UN has taken to recognise homelessness as a global issue. We will continue working to ensure that the grassroots experiences of Mercy Sisters and affiliates across the Mercy World influence global policies on homelessness. As the MIRP report states, we envision “cities and towns where homelessness is prevented, treated and resolved for all; safe, affordable housing is basic in giving people dignity, hope and a sense of belonging.”

Steps Mercy Global Action has taken to advocate for the eradication of homelessness:

  • Joined the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness (WGEH)
  • Signed on to a written statement to urge the 57th Commission on Social Development (CSocD57) to address the multifaceted problem of housing exclusion and street homelessness.
  • Co-sponsored a side event at the United Nations, which examined the underlying causes of homelessness.
  • Participated in a two-day conference to discuss strategies and tools for strengthening global advocacy efforts to end homelessness
  • Lobbied United Nations Member States to vote for homelessness as the priority theme the 58th meeting of CSocD in 2020.

Messages to: Angela Reed rsm - MIA-MGA Coordinator

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