The guests shared ideas and projects that reduce poverty and homelessness around the world
Last February 9, the 16th President General of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, brother Renato Lima de Oliveira, took part in the panel discussion titled “Digital Technology at the Service of Ending Homelessness”, together with other experts on the subject. The number of interested people who attended the virtual meeting, held online by the Zoom platform, reached around 120 people.
The initiative for the event came from the Vincentian Family, whose branches work together at the United Nations in New York (USA). The webinar is considered a “side event” to the 59th Session of the UN Commission for Social Development, which was being held that week. This kind of “side event”, organized by civil society, is very common at the United Nations during the promotion of official sessions and seminars.
Sister Teresa Kotturan, of the Sisters of Charity Federation, served as moderator of the parallel event. She praised the panellists who brought relevant information on how to employ digital technologies to provide more services and resources to reduce homelessness around the world, especially now during the health crisis that has widened inequalities. Her speech is available at the end of this text.
The President General began his speech by emphasizing that he was speaking not only on behalf of the SSVP, but above all on behalf of the Vincentian Family, responsible for creating the Famvin Homeless Alliance (FHA) and the 13 Houses Campaign, reaching excellent outcomes until now. Renato emphasized that, since the foundation of SSVP, the Conferences have acted to reduce poverty and give decent housing to the most needy people. He cited examples of concrete initiatives of SSVP to reduce homelessness in four places: United States, Brazil, Canada and Nepal. President Renato emphasized that digital exclusion is one of the most harmful forms of social poverty.
The other panellists also contributed to the discussion on the topic. Bill Soward (Shelter Tech) defended that connectivity is a basic human right, publicizing a free Wi-Fi project in homeless shelters in the United States. Maheshwari Balan (Don Bosco Forum) stressed the importance of technology in getting children and young people off the streets, who live at serious social risk.
Lydia Stazen (Institute of Global Homelessness) spoke about the importance of talking institutionally about homelessness in international and governmental forums, and presented recent statistics on the subject. Finally, Rajarshi Sircar (Loreto Rainbow Homes) emphasized other problems related to homelessness, such as depression and drugs, constituting an additional challenge to social organizations fighting against this sad situation.