World Urban Forum

Voices from Cities: Addressing Homelessness to Achieve Equitable Urban Futures

Date: 28 June, 2022

Time: 4:30pm – 6pm (CET)

Location: In person at Katowice International Conference Center, Ground Floor, Room A

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Dr. Shipra Nurang Suri—Chief of the Urban Practice Branch, Global Solutions Division, UN-Habitat

Lydia Stazen—Executive Director, Institute of Global Homelessness

Julia Wagner—Program Manager, Vanguard City Program, Institute of Global Homelessness

Dr. Suzanne Fitzpatrick—Professor of Housing and Social Policy and Director of the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research, Heriot-Watt University

Rajani Srikakulam—Consultant, Azim Premji Foundation

Karinna Soto—Head of the National Street Office, Undersecretary of Social Services, Ministry of Social Development and Family, Government of Chile


Event Summary:

Homelessness is the most extreme form of poverty and social exclusion, and it exists in every country world-wide. Local, national, and international institutional frameworks, including the Sustainable Development Goals, often do not specifically address the issue of homelessness and continue to leave the most vulnerable further and further behind. Global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine show us the importance of both housing infrastructure and comprehensive support services like access to healthcare and trauma-informed care.

The Institute of Global Homelessness (IGH) and UN-Habitat are collaborating to bring evidence-based best practice and policy to the forefront of the international conversation around sustainable and equitable cities. This interactive event will feature key successes and barriers to addressing homelessness, drawn from IGH’s first cohort of thirteen Vanguard Cities. Attendees will hear perspectives from the Vanguard Cities themselves as well as the perspective of people who have lived the experience of homelessness. Attendees will leave the session with specific ideas on how policymakers and practitioners from all sectors can take action to increase the access of all to the right to housing and the right to the city.

IGH’s first global cohort of Vanguard Cities ran from 2017-2022. Each cohort city set specific, local goals on homelessness and progressed towards those goals while learning from each other about what worked, what didn’t, and what can be done about homelessness going forward. IGH engaged an independent, third party research team to conduct an international comparative study to identify common learnings across all thirteen different contexts.

Key enablers of progress included the presence of a lead coordinating agency, and coordinated entry to homelessness services, alongside investment in specialized and evidence-based interventions, such as assertive street outreach services, individual case management and Housing First. Key barriers to progress included heavy reliance on undignified and sometimes unsafe communal shelters, a preoccupation with meeting immediate physiological needs, and sometimes perceived spiritual needs, rather than structural and system change, and a lack of emphasis on prevention. Aggressive enforcement interventions by police and city authorities, and documentary and identification barriers, were also counter-productive to attempts to reduce street homelessness. Contextual variables such as political will, financial resources, available housing supply, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will also be highlighted.

IGH and UN-Habitat will share about our collaborative effort to take these important learnings and help more local and national stakeholders build capacity to address homelessness through data collection, policy frameworks, and the implementation of evidence-based best practices. Ample time for questions and answers, interventions from attendees, and dialogue between attendees and the panelists will conclude the session.