Homelessness is a global issue of an extensive scale: 150 million people across the world live without a home, while up to 1.6 billion people live in inadequate housing. Many AIC projects seek to offer local solutions to homelessness, be it through building adequate housing or supporting the people affected by providing them with food, clothing and sanitary provisions. In addition to this practical work of AIC volunteers on the ground, homelessness has also become a priority for AIC’s advocacy work at the United Nations in recent years.
AIC is represented at the United Nations as an individual NGO, but also as a member of the Vincentian Family Coalition. In addition to AIC, the Coalition includes the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity, the Sisters of Charity Federation and the International Confederation of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. These organizations chose to form a Coalition in 2015 to strengthen the impact of their advocacy work. They all share the Vincentian charism and the conviction that “there is God endowed dignity in every human story and in our planet”. Together they aim to give a voice to those who have no voice, especially to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters excluded from society, as well as to planet Earth. After celebrating 400 years of Vincentian charism in 2017, the Coalition chose homelessness as the focus of its advocacy work at the UN.
This work was recently given recognition through the International Medal, awarded to the Vincentian Family Coalition by the Vincentian Convocation at St John’s University in New York, US, for the Coalition’s “distinguished contributions to international goodwill”. The Vincentian Convocation is one of the key events of the Founder’s Week celebrated at St John’s University, which honors every year the life and legacy of Saint Vincent. The theme of this year was “Be Vincentian, Work for Justice”.
The Vincentian Convocation was held on September 23rd at St Thomas More Church in New York. Accepting the International Medal on behalf of the Vincentian Family Coalition was Sister Teresa Kotturan of the Sisters of Charity Federation. Natalie Boone and MaryAnn Dantuono, AIC representatives at the UN in New York, also attended the ceremony. Pat Mulé who works with them was not able to attend. Father Jim Claffey took part on behalf of the Congregation of the Mission, while the International Confederation of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul was represented by Pattie Hughes, Teresa Abruzzo and Ed Keane.
Speaking at the Convocation, Sister Kotturan highlighted the fact that the Vincentian Family Coalition’s contribution at the United Nations has been to give further visibility to the issue of homelessness. The Coalition’s advocacy work has borne impressive results: at the UN Commission for Social Development in February 2020, Member States adopted a resolution stating that homelessness is a violation of human dignity. Sister Kotturan warmly welcomed this decision, the UN’s first ever resolution on homelessness. According to her, its adoption showed the power of advocacy and partnerships, and she hoped this first resolution would be followed by a legally binding one next year in the General Assembly. In her closing remarks, she called on students at St John’s University to mobilize to end homelessness, through advocacy and research, and in partnership with people experiencing homelessness, academia, NGOs and the UN.
To watch the full awards ceremony:
For more information on the Vincentian Family Coalition at the United Nations, see: