Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context



1. The present report of the
Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right
to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to nondiscrimination in
this context, is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolutions 15/8
and 25/17.

2. Homelessness is a global
human rights crisis that demands an urgent global response. It is occurring in
all socioeconomic contexts — in developed, emerging and developing economies,
in prosperity as well as in austerity. It is a diverse phenomenon, affecting
different groups of people in different ways but with common features. It is
symptomatic of the failure of governments to address growing inequalities in
income, wealth and access to land and property and to effectively respond to
the challenges of migration and urbanization. Homelessness occurs when housing
is treated as a commodity rather than as a human right.

3. At the same time,
homelessness represents individual experiences of some of the most vulnerable
members of society, characterized by abandonment, despair, erosion of
self-esteem, denial of dignity, serious health consequences and loss of life.
The term “homeless” describes not only a lack of housing but also identifies a
social group. The close link between the denial of rights and a social identity
distinguishes homelessness from deprivations of other socioeconomic rights.
People denied water or food are rarely treated as a social group in the way
homeless people are. Those who are homeless are subject to stigmatization,
social exclusion and criminalization.

4. Homelessness is an extreme
violation of the rights to adequate housing and nondiscrimination and often
also a violation of the rights to life, to security of person, to health, to
protection of the home and family and to freedom from cruel and inhuman
treatment. However, it has not been addressed with the urgency and priority
that ought to be accorded to so widespread and severe a violation of human
rights. Homelessness was not mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals, is
absent from the Sustainable Development Goals and has been rarely mentioned in
the preparatory work for the United Nations Conference on Housing and
Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). Violations of the right to life because
of homelessness have rarely been addressed as such by international human
rights bodies.

5. In the present report, the
Special Rapporteur considers how homelessness is experienced as a human rights
violation and how it can be effectively challenged and eliminated if addressed
within a human rights framework. She urges that the elimination of homelessness
be affirmed as a cross-cutting human rights priority in socioeconomic policy,
planning and development.

6. The Special Rapporteur
solicited and received over 70 responses with information and views on the
issue from States, civil society, national human rights institutions and United
Nations agencies. She held a two-day expert consultation in Buenos Aires with
25 experts in homelessness and the right to housing from around the world. She
is grateful for all the information and guidance received. The Special
Rapporteur is also appreciative of the important work done on this topic by her
predecessor, Miloon Kothari.

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