Migration and Homelessness: Hope from the Margins

Side Event during 58th Session of the Commission for Social Development

VIVAT International in New York marked the 20th Anniversary with a side event, “Migration and Homelessness: Hope from the Margins” on 18 February 2020 at Church Center for the UN. It was a well-attended event with over 100 participants which included representation from the Holy See, Philippines, and Madagascar. The occasion was graced by Sr. Maria Theresia Hornemann SSpS, President of VIVAT. The VIVAT membership represented by Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters Dorota Maria Piechaczek, Rose Therese Nolta, Xaveriana Ngene, Ancy Jacob; Little Sisters of Assumption Sisters Susanne Lachapelle and Deysi; Comboni Sister Olga Sanchez; Comboni Missionaries – Fr. Jean Paul Pezzi and Oblates of Mary- Daniel Leblanc. The event began with a brief introduction and welcome by Helen Saldanha SSpS.

The panelists were, Ms. Hanta Fida Cyrilla Klein from the Permanent Mission of Madagascar, Sr. Maria Theresia Hornemann, Sr. Susan Lachapelle LSA Family Health Services, Jean Quinn, UNANIMA International and Sr. Rose Therese Nolta. The session was moderated by Daniel Leblanc OMI.

Hanta spoke about her engagement is addressing the issue of homelessness as a diplomat along with the civil society in the last three years. She acknowledged the hard work of civil society in getting the homelessness in the agenda of the UN and hailed the role played by the African countries who pushed for bringing the issue to global negotiations. She stressed on the significance of cooperation among the countries, the importance of national context, and partnerships among governments and civil society.

Sr. Maria Theresia after a short introduction of VIVAT as an organization shared about the policy decisions and implementations the Congregation made to address the issues of migrants and refugees in four countries as good practices. She highlighted the importance of collaboration and networking for bringing positive results. The complex issues of our times demand of us working with likeminded networks in the best interest of the marginalized.

Sr. Suanne Lachapelle shared her experiences of working with the migrants and drew attentions on the inhuman conditions the homeless families live in. She highlighted various issues such as poverty, violence including sexual violence, and the struggles faced by the migrant homeless through a case study. Based on her 40 years of experience she stressed that we need to address multiple dimensions of vulnerabilities while working with them.

Sr. Jean Quinn acknowledged the two groups that enabled the tabling of the issue of homelessness at UN namely African Group (countries) and faith-based groups. She highlighted the importance of political participation and inclusion of the voices from the grassroots to advocate for change. She explored connections between homelessness and displacement as she shared her experiences of advocating for the homeless in the context of family homelessness, displacement and hidden homelessness. Lastly, she emphasized the importance of addressing migrants’ homelessness.

Sr. Rose Therese presented intersections between homelessness and migration by sharing her experiences of working with them in Chicago area underlining the importance of working with other organizations. She spoke on how we can be the voice for the marginalized.

Daniel Leblanc summing up shared the instances where migrant women and children suffer the most. He invited the participants for interventions and questions This was followed by good interactive comments by the participants and a light lunch.

This side event highlighted the importance of working with the migrants who become vulnerable due to their migratory status. Homelessness is one of them. As a priority issue VIVAT is committed to work with them, to rebuild their lives and strengthen advocacy efforts at the national and global levels.

Some of the learnings that can be helpful to VIVAT International members throughout the world:

  • Homelessness is linked to every Sustainable Development Goal — use as a framework.
  • Homelessness needs to be defined in order to be counted – then we can do more.
  • Homeless can be veterans of war, migrants or unemployed persons, older persons, persons with disabilities as well as with mental health issues.
  • Social Protection Systems is needed to address homelessness.
  • A home is a Human Right – why are there so many homeless in our world?
  • Information is powerful and data can make a difference.
  • People who are homeless are disconnected with their family and community.

What can VIVAT International Members do?

  • Understand the outcome document of CSocD – which will be presented at the General Assembly in September 2020. (https://undocs.org/E/CN.5/2020/L.5)
  • This year is a special one because it is the 75th anniversary of the Commission and the 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen.

Declaration on Social Development.

  • Make our members aware of the 20th year of VIVAT International and celebrate it.
  • Be aware that it is the 25th anniversary of the Copenhagen – No one left behind and the people centered focus for all of our programs…
  • Do what we can as members of VIVAT International in preventing homelessness and trying to help people who are homeless. Be aware of the situation in your country or area.

Helen Saldanha SSpS
Rose Therese Nolta SSpS
VIVAT International