The United Nations just ended the Commission for Social Development, an event that tackled the 2030 agenda and strove to raise awareness for the problem of homelessness around the world. The conference ranged from February 10-19, 2020.
The conference had an emphasis on homelessness, particularly how homelessness impacts families. Multiple panels dedicated themselves to explaining the root causes of homelessness. According to their sources, mental health, domestic abuse and eviction, respectively, were the primary causes of homelessness in New York City.
Many countries explained in a plenary meeting what they are doing to fix the crisis of homelessness. Their solutions varied: Nicaragua plans to implement more than 40 new programs to put more affordable homes in their cities, while Iraq has launched a new national strategy with more sustainable goals to provide legal assistance for those displaced by terrorist attacks. Saudi Arabia saw an increase of home ownership by 62 percent lately and plans to fund more education and increase the number of special clinics and family doctors, hoping that fewer medical bills will decrease the cost of living.
Egypt had the lengthiest goal of all. The members of government are planning to launch a national housing plan that complements the environment to work in tandem with private initiatives in order “to improve the lives of all citizens.” In 2015, the country started re-planning and strengthening infrastructure and services and started a 1.5 million housing units project, the largest in Egypt’s history. The new initiative guarantees dignified housing for people across the age spectrum, especially young adults, the elderly, those with disabilities, and families with women as heads of the household. So far, 685,000 houses have been built. The Egyptian government declared a right to adequate housing and health services “to give dignity to all and to promote social justice.”
The United Nations hosted the plenary meetings as well as over 50 side events. The side events ranged from film premieres to nonprofit meetings to seminars to briefings to dramatized reenactments of books written by notable people in the conference.
One particularly impactful meeting was hosted by the Center for Family and Human Rights, or C-FAM, Inc., on Wednesday the 19. The panel consisted of three speakers and one moderator who discussed what religious organizations can do to help those trapped in homelessness.
Members of the panel included one representative from Catholic Charities USA, a representative from a men’s shelter, and a former attendee of that shelter.
The representative from Catholic Charities USA filled her speech with facts and statistics. Homelessness in New York City has reached the highest numbers since the Great Depression—about 1 in every 125 people in this city are homeless. Around 4,000 people sleep on the streets every night, she said, and there are approximately 60,000 people in the New York City shelter system.
The representative even dove past homelessness and went into the stories of those on the poverty line at risk of losing it all. According to her research and experience of working with those in need, 60 percent of New Yorkers lack emergency funds for three months of rent.
Ironic, isn’t it, that New York is one of the richest cities in the world but has such a vast homeless population? I think that is what made this conference so pivotal at the United Nations.
Overall, the work being done highlighted the need to truly focus on homelessness and recognize that not only is this a common problem around the world, but also close to our home, even in a metropolitan city like New York.