2020 is a crucial year to make homeless people count. In February, for the first time in decades, the UN will release a report on homelessness written by the Secretary General.

We are supporting a Campaign, Make Us Count, led by the UN NGO Working Group to End Homlessness. It asks the UN to commit in its report to define and measure global homelessness.

These are the foundations of a global strategy to end homelessness – an opportunity we must seize. Currently, there is no strategy at all. Every other major social issue is tackled globally to some degree. Not homelessness. In fact, countries don’t even agree on a definition. And there is no global measurement either. At the UN right now, homeless people aren’t just ignored – they aren’t even numbers.

You might think, so what? But this matters. Put bluntly, it is preventing us from ending homelessness. How can you solve a problem if you don’t know its size? Any credible strategy must have good data and information. This means we can design programmes that respond to need systematically. We can identify gaps and help those people too. We can hold governments to account and keep track of progress. Measurement is key.

But how can you measure a problem if you don’t agree on what the problem is? That’s why we need a definition. When countries agree broadly on what ‘homelessness’ means, then we can begin to measure it.

The UN has the power to both agree a definition of homelessness and to measure it too. The UN claims to measure global poverty – but how can you measure poverty if you don’t measure its most visible manifestation, homelessness?

So the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness, aided by our partner think tank the Institute of Global Homelessness, has devised the campaign “Make Us Count”. It takes the voices and expertise of homeless people themselves to those grand chambers at the UN. And its open letter, signed by leading homelessness charities and experts tells the UN that, yes, definition plus measurement is the start of a global strategy. A strategy the UN must lead. The Campaign includes panel events and an exhibition over the February meetings in New York.

Visit makeuscount.com for more information.