Homelessness is a serious problem around the world. There are more than 100 million people who are homeless, and most of them are women and children. In addition, more than 600 million people live in places that are unsafe or polluted -- making them life threatening or dangerous for their residents' health. Poverty is the primary reason that people live in these conditions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 describing the basic human rights to which all people should be entitled. Adequate shelter is one of those basic human rights the world agreed upon. The United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UN-HABITAT), is the UN agency that is dedicated to working for the achievement of adequate shelter for all and promoting socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development.
The countries of the world agreed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration to improve the lives of 100 million people who live in slums by the year 2020. Even though this is only a fraction of those who live in these conditions, since that agreement in 2000, the number of people living in slums hasn't improved -- in fact it has grown by over 75 million people! One of the biggest challenges humanity faces is the fact that half the world now lives in cities. In 1950 less than 1/3 of the world's population were city dwellers. By 2050 it is expected that 2/3 of the world will live in cities. Cities are the center for much of the world's economic opportunities, but they are also hubs for crime, disease, pollution and poverty. Some cities around the world have more than half their populations living in slums with little or no access to water, shelter or proper sanitation.
The United Nations designated the first Monday in October every year as World Habitat Day to raise awareness about the basic right to adequate shelter for all and to remind our leaders about our goal of promoting environmentally sustainable cities and towns. (The date was chosen to mark the anniversary of the first UN international conference on human settlements in Vancouver, Canada in 1976.) Since poverty is the primary cause of homelessness and slums, World Habitat Day is also an opportunity to rededicate our commitment to ending global poverty.
World Habitat Day - 1st Monday in October
"The future of our human settlements - from hamlet to megacity - will not be determined by 'bricks and mortar' alone. More housing is needed and rebuilding decaying infrastructure is essential - the litany is a long and familiar one. But for all we do about it, the malaise that now eats at the heart of our cities will not disappear unless we also pay attention to the urban soul, unless we advance the human solidarities that transform the built environment into human - and humane - settlements: the livable neighbourhoods of our interdependent world.
History, geography and social change create the context for human solidarity; rational processes build cities, but faith, loyalty, honour and trust among its members create communal life. Beyond 'bricks and mortar', therefore, our cities, towns and villages need the social capital provided by a human solidarity of tolerance, mutual respect and shared values - social and spiritual - that generate close community bonds and trust, the bedrock of healthy human settlements." -- Wally N'Dow
Change.org - Ending Homelessness
Changing The Present: Homelessness
National Alliance To End Homelessness
National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
Solutions for America: Preventing Homelessness