12th February 2020
At the 58th Commission for Social Development, Tiffany Pang, volunteer for ILC Global Alliance attended a side event "The Rise of Homelessness in Aging Women" organized by Soroptimist International on February 12, 2020. The event shared practices and challenges to address aging populations in homelessness.
Moderated by Frances Zainoeddin of UN’s NGO Committee on Ageing, the panel consisted of experts from organizations related to aging and homelessness:
- Sharon Fisher, President, Soroptimist International
- Jane Barratt, Secretary-General, International Federation on Ageing
- Kirin Taylor, Research Fellow, UNANIMA International
- Julia Wagner, Program Manager of “A Place to Call Home”, Institute of Global Homelessness
- Maria Fornella-Oehninger, Soroptimist International
Throughout the session, there was an emphasis that older women are a fast growing population in homelessness. Many of them experiencing homelessness often struggle with mental illnesses that all too often go undiagnosed due to their lack of access for care. There are many risk factors that lead older persons in particular to homelessness, including eviction from homes because of inability to pay rent, lack of employment opportunities, mental issues, and impact of natural disasters affecting where they live.
According to UNANIMA’s report, the two biggest reasons for older women becoming homeless are a lack of social protection floors and family breakup. When they try to re-enter the workforce, they often find resistance. They are no longer considered experienced professionals in the workplace but as a liability for workplace insurance rates going up. In interviews, they often express feeling isolated and invisible, and a panelist urged for a strong emphasis on the older population, a group that is being left behind, in the implementation of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Mrs. Maria Fornella-Oehninger of Soroptimist International is also a member of the Working Group to End Homelessness which is pushing for the UN to address homelessness by establishing a global definition of homelessness. She asserted that in order to measure the problem, it must first be defined. The Working Group is working on advocacy and increasing awareness about the linkages of homelessness to the SDGs — urging member states to consider and reaffirm that housing as is a basic human right, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In her closing remarks, Mrs. Frances Zainoeddin thanked the panelists and acknowledged the incredible work that NGOs are doing to help the homeless, emphasizing, at the same time, that policy must change in order to prevent homelessness. She stressed that the goal is to end homelessness.
The CSocD 58 website is available here.
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