Housing

'Substantial efforts' needed to improve knowledge of homelessness, landmark UN report says

The United Nations secretary-general has presented a report on homelessness to the General Assembly for the first time. Expert Dame Louise Casey hopes the move will create an “international league table” to further efforts to end homelessness for good

United Nations secretary-general António Guterres has presented a report on homelessness

UN secretary-general António Guterres report on homelessness is a milestone moment in the global fight to ensure everyone has a secure home across the globe. Image: UN Photo/Manuel Elías

The United Nations secretary-general will present a landmark report on homelessness to the UN General Assembly in a move described as a “big moment” in tackling the issue across the globe.

Secretary-general António Guterres’ report recommends a global target is set to end homelessness aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals. He also called for the issue to be discussed at future General Assemblies with reports to share strategies, best practices and policies between countries to prevent and address the issue.

Baroness Louise Casey, a former homelessness tsar under the new Labour government, who also led the Everyone In campaign to protect rough sleepers during the pandemic, said it was a “brilliant day”.

“It’s a pretty big moment,” Institute of Global Homelessness chair Baroness Casey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Since I left the civil service I have been quietly, alongside many other people, trying to get the UN secretary-general and all of its processes to essentially put homelessness on the map.

“What’s fantastic about today is that the secretary-general has adopted that there is a problem and, as this report shows, we can do something about it.”

The report at the 78th General Assembly found “substantial efforts” are needed to improve the knowledge of homelessness and the policies to tackle it.

People experiencing homelessness are currently completely absent from all 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the UN’s global objectives which serve as a blueprint for a better future – and their 169 associated indicators.

The secretary-general also called for greater efforts to understand the scale of the issue through counts and data and urged member states to recognise homelessness as a priority when developing social security systems.

Countries should also “invest in ambitious housing policies” to ensure adequate and affordable housing is available for all and create a national strategy to prevent and address all kinds of homelessness.

Lydia Stazen, chair of the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness, said “efforts to date have not been sufficient to end or reduce homelessness, a growing problem globally”.

“The evidence shows that homelessness can be ended, but taking comprehensive policies and programs to scale in order to succeed will require a coordinated, resourced approach at local, national, and global levels,” added Stazen.

“The United Nations and member states play a critical role in scaling effective solutions. The challenges of the pandemic and climate change are increasing pressure on housing around the world. It is time to act boldly and quickly to bring isolated local and national successes to global action.”

The secretary-general’s report is seen as an important move in comparing and contrasting approaches to tackling homelessness between countries.

Baroness Casey said she hopes the move is a first step in creating an “international league table” to see how different states fare.

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

The report comes just days after the Kerslake Commission, an expert panel set up to scrutinise how rough sleeping is being addressed, gave a damning indictment of the Westminster government’s progress in tackling street homelessness.

The panel said the Tory government was on track to break its 2019 manifesto pledge to eradicate rough sleeping by the end of next year.

Baroness Casey agreed that the Tories were set to fail and said she was “shocked” when she went back into government to lead the Everyone In scheme at the number of closed hostels and services and the lack of a prevention strategy.

She added: “I think the missed opportunity of that whole six months was that the government, in my view, were not committed to making sure everyone stayed in and I think we missed an opportunity there. But it does give me hope that we can do something about it.”

“There isn’t really a plan. They’ve got a commitment to reduce street homelessness, they’re not going to meet that manifesto commitment.” 

“The UN thing is giving hope. Obviously I’m quite critical of our domestic policy on homelessness but, within that, there are people like the Prince of Wales, who are trying to do it.”

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

Prince William’s Homewards programme, which was launched in June, is looking to develop the tools to end homelessness over the next five years through local projects around the UK.

The Royal Foundation said it “welcomed and supported” the UN’s “global frame on the issue of homelessness”.

We’re calling on the prime minister to make sure everyone can afford to stay in their homes and pay for the essentials by:

  • Unfreezing Local Housing Allowance rates
  • Increasing Universal Credit to £120 a week for a single adult and £200 for a couple.

Will you add your voice to our call and sign the petition?

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?
Angela Rayner announces Labour new town plan
Housing

Labour promises wave of new towns if elected. But will they make a dent in UK's housing crisis?

Over 90,000 households threatened with no-fault evictions since Tories promised to ban them
Renters angry at no-fault evictions, Renters Reform Bill delay and a lack of rent controls
RENTING

Over 90,000 households threatened with no-fault evictions since Tories promised to ban them

Starmer warned over glaring omission in Labour's six general election pledges: 'I'm disappointed'
Housing crisis

Starmer warned over glaring omission in Labour's six general election pledges: 'I'm disappointed'

Scottish government is declaring a national housing emergency – but what does it actually mean?
Scottish first minister John Swinney
Housing

Scottish government is declaring a national housing emergency – but what does it actually mean?

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know