Report on homelessness as a global human rights crisis

30 December 2015
Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing
To the Human Rights Council at its 31st session
A/HRC/31/54 and report summary (English | Français | Portuguese | Español)


Homelessness as a global human rights crisis that demands an urgent global response. This report examines how homelessness is due to States’ failures to respond both to individual circumstances and to a range of structural causes, abandoning responsibility for social protection and allowing unregulated real estate speculation and investment to exclude a growing number of people from any form of housing.

The Special Rapporteur offers a three-dimensional approach anchored in human rights that undermines “moral” explanations of homelessness as personal failures and instead recognizes patterns of inequality that deny those who are homeless their rights:

  • The first dimension addresses the absence of home in terms of both its physical structure and its social aspects.
  • The second dimension considers homelessness as a form of systemic discrimination and social exclusion, whereby “the homeless” become a social group subject to stigmatization.
  • The third dimension recognizes homeless people as resilient in the struggle for survival and dignity and potential agents of change as rights holder.

The report outlines a clear set of obligations of States under international human rights law that, if complied with, would eliminate homelessness.

These recommendations are as follows:

  • Commit to eliminating homelessness by 2030 or earlier in a manner that upholds international human rights and target 11.1 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  • Develop and implement, on an immediate basis, rights-based strategies coordinated between different levels of government aimed at preventing and eliminating homelessness by addressing structural causes and long-term solutions;
  • Develop more reliable measures of homelessness, inclusive of less visible forms of homelessness and its qualitative dimensions;
  • Immediately review and repeal any and all laws, policies or measures that discriminate directly or indirectly against homeless people or criminalize, impose fines on or restrict homeless people or behaviour associated with being homeless, such as sleeping or eating in public spaces;
  • Recognize homeless people as a protected group in all relevant domestic legal frameworks;
  • Ensure access to hearings and effectives remedies to homeless people for violations of their rights;
  • Recommit to providing adequate social protection and ensuring access to affordable housing for marginalized and vulnerable groups;
  • Immediately halt any evictions that may result in homelessness; and
  • Direct special attention to homelessness amongst indigenous peoples caused by displacement from land and resources and the destruction of cultural identity.

View report summary
PDF: English | Français | Portuguese | Español

Learn more about homelessness and human rights.


The Special Rapporteur invited Governments and other relevant actors, such as National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organisations, networks, UN agencies and entities, and others with relevant information to share contributions and inputs for her report.

Questionnaire for governments (English | Français | Español)

Questionnaire for NHRI, NGOs, UN agencies, etc (English | Français | Español)

Inputs received


National Human Rights Institutions

UN agencies