Participants at side event “Homelessness, SDG 1 and Sustainable Recovery from COVID19: Poverty left behind”, organised this month, agreed that lack of standardized data collection methodologies on homelessness hampers the reporting process for all SDGs, specially SDG1 – end poverty -- and the sustainable and resilient recovery from COVID-19.

The July 6th online gathering, organized by UN-Habitat and the Institute of Global Homelessness, aimed at bettering understanding the extent of the impact of the absence of such methodologies in the international community’s ability to follow-up and review progress made in achieving SDGs.

The event was held on the sidelines of the High Level Political Forum, the main UN platform on sustainable development, which has a central role in the follow-up and the review of SDG’s progress. The recording can be accessed here.

“We cannot build back better from the pandemic and deliver on the Agenda 2030, if we do not commit to end homelessness. We cannot do so if we do not work together, toward strengthened data collection methodologies on homelessness,” UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif told the audience in her opening remarks.

Dame Louise Casey, chair of the Institute of Global Homelessness, stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed shown the enormous gap between the existing data and the used data in cities, communities, countries. She also stressed that producing data on homelessness is important for several reasons, including being able to insert problematic topics onto the political agenda, identifying the nature and the extent of the problem, and targeting and monitoring success of actions.

Summing up the discussion, Shipra Narang Suri, Chief of the Urban Practices Branch of UN-Habitat and moderator of the event, highlighted the following take away points:

      • Everyone should be represented in data if we are to formulate more inclusive and responsive policies. That means that data should be disaggregated by gender, other socio-economics characteristics, as well as include a spatial dimension. To achieve rich and nuanced data to support policy making, innovative data collections tools need to be explored.
      • Better proxies of homelessness should be identified. The lack of attention for housing overburden and affordability as predictors of homelessness risk has emerged during the discussion. Still, to prevent homelessness this kind of indicators is of critical importance.
      • Better proxies are also needed to understand homelessness in all its complexity (eg, transitional, episodic, chronic) each requiring a specific policy response. A combination of policies is needed to prevent and address homelessness, but that implies a round understanding of specific drivers and the spectrum of experiences.
      • Without a clear and shared understanding of homelessness and its complexity, integrating it in in the SDG will not be possible. To this end a spectrum definition which is contextually appropriate is needed.
      • For a just and inclusive recovery from COVID-19 to be developed, the specific impacts that the pandemic has had on people in situation of homelessness need to be fully understood and taken into account, as well as the drivers that have led to their vulnerability in the first place.  

The event will feed into the discussion of the Global Homelessness Data Initiative, the first global project to support homelessness enumeration which has been jointly undertaken by UN-Habitat and the Institute of Global Homelessness.