Every year on Oct. 10, people around the world come together to observe World Homeless Day. This internationally recognized day was first established in 2010 through discussions among individuals dedicated to addressing homelessness globally. Since then, it has gained traction, being observed on nearly every continent and in numerous countries worldwide. The purpose of World Homeless Day is to draw attention to the needs of unhoused individuals in local communities and provide opportunities for communities to engage in efforts to combat homelessness. It also serves as a platform to advocate for improved policies and funding to ultimately end homelessness.
In September, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth participated in the annual Give for Good Louisville online fundraising campaign with the goal to address homelessness in the local community. More than $11,000 was raised through this campaign. Now, with these funds, the Sisters are taking steps to make a difference in the lives of unhoused individuals in the surrounding area.
One of the shelters they are supporting is the St. John Center in Louisville, which is on a mission to help people in the Metro area experiencing homelessness overcome the barriers to finding stable housing. The center has identified specific needs, such as winter hats, washcloths, underwear, gloves, and toiletries, to assist their clients effectively, which the Sisters will help supply.
The Sisters are also looking at ways to support other area shelters and services, such as Bethany Haven and Room in the Inn in Bardstown and Nelson County, with which the Sisters have volunteered and served locally. Another service, Sister Visitor Center in Louisville, is the subject of this year’s fall appeal to help improve access to affordable housing through initiatives such as rent assistance.
Supporting such entities through recent fundraising is just a small example of the ongoing work from Sisters and the religious community at large to tackle this growing issue.
Teresa Kotturan, SCN, shares that in recent years, the issue of homelessness has gained significant attention on a global scale. In 2017, Vincentian Family NGOs at the United Nations (UN) initiated a crucial advocacy effort to address homelessness. This effort led to the formation of the Working Group to End Homelessness, a coalition of NGOs dedicated to tackling this pressing issue. Their primary objectives were to establish a universal definition of homelessness and collect accurate data on its prevalence.
At the time, various countries had their own definitions of homelessness, making it challenging to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat the issue. The last global estimation of homelessness, Sister Teresa said, was made in 2005, highlighting the urgent need for updated and reliable data.
Their persistence and dedication bore fruit in 2019 when the United Nations recognized homelessness as a critical issue under Sustainable Development Goal 11. This recognition was a significant milestone, but there was still much work to be done.
Following this recognition, the Working Group continued its efforts, pushing for a binding resolution to address homelessness. In December 2021, their relentless advocacy efforts paid off when the General Assembly passed a binding resolution.
Formally acknowledging homelessness as a global problem and recognizing it as a violation of human rights, this resolution underscored the fundamental human right to adequate housing and the necessity of collecting comprehensive data on homelessness. The passage of this resolution marked a pivotal moment in the global fight against homelessness, demonstrating the power of persistent advocacy and collaboration at the international level.
As World Homeless Day approaches, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth will continue to lead by example, showing how individuals and organizations can actively engage with and address the issue of homelessness in their local communities. From fundraising for area resources, to speaking with state legislators about possible solutions, there is much that can be done.
World Homeless Day reminds us all of the pressing need to support and advocate for those living on the margins and experiencing homelessness. It is a day to reflect on the progress made and to renew our commitment to working together to ensure that every person has access to safe, stable, and adequate housing.