Homelessness is coming to the forefront at the United Nations, thanks in large part to work by DePaul’s Institute of Global Homelessness and its partners, who have been advocating for the U.N. to address the issue in a more prominent way. On Feb. 22, IGH and the group achieved a huge victory when the U.N.’s Commission for Social Development announced that “affordable housing and social protection for all to address homelessness” will be a priority theme at its meetings in 2020.
“There’s a unique role that we can play, with our data and research, as well as the wealth of knowledge from our community of partners,” says Lydia Stazen, executive director of the Institute of Global Homelessness. “We will bring all of that to bear to make this year as meaningful as possible.”
Officially called the U.N. NGO Working Group to End Homelessness, other members include the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance and an international group of nonprofits. IGH supported the group by providing materials that persuade U.N. members to include street homelessness in the global debate, to consider housing as a basic human need, and to explore the challenges street homelessness poses to meeting other U.N. objectives, including the 2030 New Urban Agenda.
The effort to end homelessness is also a priority for the Vincentian Family and aligns strongly with DePaul’s Vincentian values. “St. Vincent once said, ‘your pain is my pain,’” says Guillermo Campuzano, C.M., U.N. NGO Congregation of the Mission representative and a leader in the working group. “We are all together in life’s journey. There is extraordinary pain involved in homelessness; and there is extraordinary joy and potential — both for the individual and for that individual’s community — in resolving it.”
Campuzano lauds IGH as a “central point of connection for many global NGOs, a place they refer to for information, references and connection for their advocacy.” A large part of the effort with the U.N. moving forward will be building political will to measure the problem, explains Mark McGreevy, IGH’s co-founder and group chief executive of Depaul International.
“If we want to end homelessness globally, then we need accurate data to tell us how big the problem is and why it happens, and provide us with a benchmark to measure what works and what doesn’t,” McGreevy says. “The decision by the U.N. to focus on homelessness in 2020 is a great opportunity to put this global data collection framework in place.”