Last summer I was fortunate to meet Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, at a conference concerning the legal needs of street youth. I hung on to her every word, as it makes so much sense to ground our arguments and strategies concerning youth homelessness in international human rights law.
Youth homelessness exists because of the denial of the basic human rights of young people and once identified as such, must be remedied as such. Practically, this means that policies, laws and strategies aimed at youth homelessness must recognize international human rights obligations, and be grounded in a human rights framework that will inform all stages of development, implementation and evaluation. A Human rights approach requires a paradigm shift, so that instead of creating laws which discriminate or punish youth, all levels of government must urgently address the systemic causes of youth homelessness and provide legal protections for their human rights, including the right to housing. It is an understanding that youth homelessness is not merely about individual circumstance, but rather a failure of states to act on their human rights responsibilities. (Canadian Definition of Youth Homelessness, p. 7)
Yesterday A Way Home Canada released a comprehensive Youth Homelessness Community Planning Toolkit to ensure communities have the knowledge and tools to plan and implement strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness. Today we’re proud to release what we consider to be a companion guide to enable communities to adopt and effectively use the language of international human rights law in their plans. Youth Rights! Right Now! Ending Youth Homelessness: A Human Rights Guide is a collaboration of Canada Without Poverty, A Way Home Canada, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and FEANTSA.
To help us launch the Guide, Ms. Farha has prepared a short video concerning youth homelessness and international human rights law. Please circulate widely and remember that ALL youth have human rights!
Ms. Farha is the Executive Director of the NGO Canada Without Poverty, based in Ottawa, Canada - she is home grown. A lawyer by training, for the past 20 years Ms. Farha has worked both internationally and domestically on the implementation of the right to adequate housing for the most marginalized groups. Funding for the Guide was provided by Maytree and The Laidlaw Foundation.