(This is an extract. For the full text click here)
The right to adequate housing is outlined in Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and supported in Catholic Social Teaching, notably in Pope John XIII's enumeration of fundamental human rights in his 1963 Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris(11). It is central to the protection of human dignity as so many other rights depend on having a secure home, such as health, education and work. Homelessness and housing insecurity have a major impact on wellbeing, affecting health, relationships, access to education and employment and a person's ability to participate in society and contribute to the community
Pushing people to the margins of our society
Some groups of people experience particular obstacles in accessing housing, which can lead to feelings of isolation, alienation and a perception of rejection by society. The tragic loss of life experienced in the Travelling community in October this year highlighted the particular vulnerability of many Traveller families resulting from the failure to honour commitments to address the cultural needs of that community in relation to housing. The outpouring of concern in the wake of this tragedy needs to be followed by urgent action to ensure the safety of families.
A Pastoral Concern for the Church
In this season of Advent it is important that we, in our local church communities, reach out to those who are living with the painful reality of homelessness or housing insecurity.
We can help address this situation in our church communities by informing ourselves about homelessness and ensuring that our parish communities are welcoming and supportive environments for those who find themselves in this situation.
An opportunity to re-build lives and communities
In the words of Pope Francis: "We can find no social or moral justification, no justification, no justification whatsoever, for lack of housing," (24 September 2015). Housing is an area where we can make a profound difference to people's lives, with significant long-term benefits. The present situation requires:
- A redoubling of efforts by all relevant statutory and voluntary agencies in order to pool resources to prevent the death of homeless people on our streets;
- Investment in social housing to provide sustainable solutions to the housing issues in our communities;
- A strategy for dealing with mortgage arrears which enables families to remain in their homes;
- Urgent intervention to address the housing needs of the Travelling Community;
- A coordinated response to the refugee crisis, in partnership with local communities, which ensures that the needs of those who are already here seeking asylum in our society are not overlooked;
- Support for those charities working in Ireland and throughout the world to support those who have lost, or are at risk of losing their home.