Date of Meeting: 30 October 2018

Meeting Organizer: Working Group to End Homelessness

ISJC Staff Present: Major Victoria Edmonds, Stephanie Marinelli, Catherine Millan

Reporter: Stephanie Marinelli and Catherine Millan

Which SDG does this topic cover? SDG 1 and 11

Type of meeting: Panel of speakers

Brief summary of presentation of information made

The meeting opened with a video from Kim Cook who was first homeless when she was pregnant. She discussed the systematic problems embedded in the shelter programs and explained how she could not save up money toward a more secure future while living in the shelter. She wanted to give her kids a normal life but, in every aspect, there were barriers that prevented her from achieving this.


First speaker: Chris Williams, Director of UN Habitat

  • Advocacy: he emphasised the importance of using our power and voices for others who cannot speak on their own behalf.
  • Initiatives at the global level (SDGs 1 and 11) are commitments to reduce poverty by half in all its dimensions. Homelessness is one of those dimensions.
  • New Urban Agenda (2016 Quito, Ecuador) – 20,000 people came together to discuss improving cities and strategies to reduce and eradicate poverty.
  • Context of a country is everything.
    • India: Homelessness is the manifestation of poorly designed cities.
      • The concept of saving daily is foreign (daily savings associations).
      • Railway Children: Organisation created to help orphans and homeless children in Kenya, Tanzania, and India.
        • Children frequently find themselves at train stations to run away to find a better life. 
        • According to their website, every five minutes a child arrives alone on a platform in India (for more information:
  • United States: majority of homelessness is due to drug abuse and prisoners who are released and have nowhere to go.
    • Homeless people in the US face a huge stigma and exclusion within society.
    • People working to fight homelessness cannot easily engage with policymakers.
  • UN Platforms: It is necessary to use UN Platforms in the fight to end homelessness.
    • Example: using the SDGs to support argument in fighting homelessness.
    • There is a need for networking.
    • Importance of communication among homeless outreach programs to share ideas and best practices.

Second Speaker: Monica Jahangir, UN Representative for ATD 4th World

How to respond to this?

  • Social protection systems and floors: Guarantee from the government of necessities such as access to essential health care and basic income security that are designed to be a social safety net for citizens. (For more information:
    • Monica pointed out that the definition for social protection systems and floors does not mention housing.
    • Oftentimes housing is a prerequisite to receive aid (by requiring proof of residency).
    • There is a need for a coordinated policy.
    • There is a need for better data- which means including homeless people in policy discussions.

Third Speaker: Jake Maguire, Principal at Community Solutions

  • The right housing is only as effective as our ability to implement it.
  • NGOs need to try to bridge the gap between policymaking and homelessness
  •  Housing First Revolution
  • Homelessness is too broad a topic to tackle (its like saying you want to cure sickness).
    • It is necessary to segment homelessness.
      • Example: Out of the people who were considered homeless:
        • 80% were homeless for a short time and resolved it on their own (This group used 10% of the homeless assistance resources)
        • 10% were considered episodically homeless (This group used 23% of the homeless assistance resources)
        • 10% were considered chronically homeless (This group used 67% of the homeless assistance resources)
      • It is important to not treat each of these situations in the same way.
  • Supported the idea of high agency, low anonymity.
    • This means that if a person walks into a homeless shelter, the shelter can pull up this individual’s information from other homeless shelters (medical records, length of time they have been homeless etc…

Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing (Video Presentation)

  • There is a disconnect between homelessness and human rights.
  • Homeless people are at a high risk of early death and face violations of their basic human rights daily.
  • Homelessness is not about individual failures and is an issue embedded within society.
    • This is due to people with power taking control of the housing system.
  • Homelessness is a depravation of dignity.

Fourth Speaker: Representative for Kat Johnson, Program Manager, A Place to Call Home, Institute of Global Homelessness

  • Mission of the Institute of Global Homelessness is to support the emerging global movement to end street homelessness.
  • This is an urgent challenge that affects all nations.
  • Adequate housing is a core component of social protection.
  • UN agreements acknowledge housing as an important role in ending poverty – acknowledges 3 groups: Refugees, Slum Dwellers, and Street homelessness
  • Street homelessness is an issue that gets left behind or forgotten.
  • Helsinki, Finland is a good example of fighting to end street homelessness by adopting the “Housing First” model and the results were visible within a few years (for more information:
  • This organisation is implementing A Place to Call Home initiative to end homelessness in 150 cities by 2030.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

Since The Salvation Army is heavily involved in the mission to end homelessness, many of the topics mentioned would apply to corps (churches) and community centres around the world. One of the main messages from Jesus’ teachings is to care for the poor (see Matthew 25:34-40). It is our duty, not only as The Salvation Army but also as Christians to fight against the injustices of the world such as homelessness. It is essential for Salvationists to be informed about the work being done to end homelessness and participate in the effort.

Most of the discussion talked about how differences in policy could help the homelessness situation, and this also provided ideas on how The Salvation Army can take steps to systematically make a difference in our own practices. The meeting also highlighted that sometimes rules can harm people who are desperately in need. Sometimes a new rule is needed, or an existing rule needs a slight tweak. This meeting was a reminder to take this social disadvantage as an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives.

Web links for more information - Website for UN Habitat - Website for ATD 4th World – Website for Community Solutions – Website for Institute of Global Homelessness Hub - Example of what the Salvation Army is doing to fight homelessness. Click the link for more information about Shield of Hope in the USA Central Territory.

Tags: United Nations, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities